EN | FR | DE | ES

Best Japanese Board Games

When thinking of Japanese games, often games like Sonic and Mario immediately come to mind. But, board games have been a part of Japanese culture for centuries and continue to grow in popularity around the world. That’s why we’ve included a blend of traditional and more modern Japanese board games. 

If you’re looking for a few new ideas for games to play, then let’s delve into the top 12 best Japanese board games!

🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Japanese Board Games

In a hurry? Take a quick peek before you go.

Best Classic

Shogi

Best Tile Placement

Tsuro
$33.25

Buy on Amazon Buy at Noble Knight
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2022 03:31 am GMT

Best Overall

Iki: A Game of Edo Artisans
Best Japanese Board Games Featured

人生に失敗がないと、人生を失敗する — “If you have no failure in life, you will fail in life.”

— Shigeta Saito

#1. Iki: A Game of Edo Artisans

Players: 2- 4
Playing time: 60- 90mins 

A game of Edo Artisans.

Set in the Edo period in Japan, the biggest trading market is alive and well. Along the hustle and bustle of the main streets, there are lantern makers, woodblock printers, street merchants, and geishas, just to name a few. 

Playing through one year at the markets, players work to foster Edo’s prosperity, while monitoring its citizens’ well-being. To ensure all is well, players need to hire people of all different skills, working to become the living personification of “IKI”, an ancient Japanese philosophy representing the ideal way of living a civic life. 

The board game is very interactive as players become immersed in the trade culture of the Edo period in Japan.

Iki: A Game of Edo Artisans

#2. Tokaido

Tokaido Board Game Box and Cards

Players: 2- 5
Playing time: 45mins

Players travel along the famed Tokaido road in search of adventure and discovery. 

Tokaido has players travel crossing the East Sea Road, meeting interesting travelers, eating unusual meals, sightseeing, visiting temples, and collecting beautiful items. But, when you reach the end of the road, who will be the most initiated traveler? 

In Tokaido, leisurely traveling won’t cut it. You’ll need to discover the most beautiful of places and interesting collectibles. Actions are laid out on a linear track, with players advancing down with each action they complete. Moving into different action spaces gives you different scores.

Choose your actions carefully, and you’ll find yourself the most experienced traveler.

Tokaido
$39.00

Buy on Amazon Buy at Noble Knight
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/05/2022 09:39 am GMT

#3. Rising Sun

Rising Sun Board Game

Players: 3- 5
Playing time: 90- 120mins

Can you lead your clan to victory and honor? 

Clans struggle to gain control of provinces in feudal Japan, and war is not only won on the battlefield. Diplomacy, alliances, and betrayal will lead to winning the war.

Rising Sun has players take on the role of a clan leader, with each clan having special abilities. In a unique battle system, players need to fight, outthink and bluff their opponents. 

Rising Sun has fantastic artwork that transports players into the world of feudal Japan with all its beauty and tradition. Each miniature is highly detailed and intricate, only adding to the gaming experience. 

Rising Sun

Buy on Amazon Buy at Noble Knight
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

#4. Shogi (Japanese Chess)

Players: 2
Playing time: 60mins

Shogi, also known as Japanese chess, is a two-player board game that requires a similar strategy to Chinese Chess and Western Chess.

Its origins aren’t known, but the modern form of Shogi is said to have started around 1610. Although it’s a very old game, it’s still extremely popular in Japan. A testament to Shogi’s brilliance.

Understanding the game can take a bit of time as there are 20 pieces per side, and each piece has unique rules and abilities. On a 9-by-9 board, players try to capture their opponent’s king. One distinct difference is that a captured piece can be dropped back on the board and used for attack. 

The game can be very long, so you’ll need to be patient as your strategy evolves.

Shogi

#5. Ohanami

Players: 2- 4
Playing time: 20mins

Hanami, meaning ‘flower viewing’ in Japanese, is the act of viewing and taking in all the beauty of zen gardens. In the game Ohanami, players work to grow the most beautiful zen garden by collecting cards. 

It’s cherry blossom season, and the trees are about to blanket zen gardens with their beauty. They’ll need a lot of attention to bloom. Water, vegetation, stones, and Sakura trees must be positioned perfectly to create harmony and help players to become Master Gardeners.

It’s important to know which cards to keep and which to offer to your opponents. You’ll need to strike a delicate balance to ensure your garden is the most beautiful! 

Ohanami is a unique card drafting game with gorgeous illustrations. Its compact size makes it perfect for travel or as a stocking-stuffer!

Ohanami

Buy on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

#6. Shogun

Players: 3- 5
Playing time: 90- 120mins

Players take on the role of a Daimyo (a Japanese lord), working to lead their army to victory. 

The style of play is similar to Risk but with ancient Japanese warfare. Players try to secure a position of dominance, striving to become the Shogun. Becoming the Shogun is no easy task. Players will need to control as many provinces as possible while also developing their realm by building theaters, temples, and castles. 

Each Daimyo has the same ten possible actions, so there’s a lot of strategy needed and a high level of interaction. Whoever chooses the right actions and manages to build the most buildings, wins. 

Shogun also has expansion packs that’ll challenge advanced players.

Or check availability at Amazon:

#7. Samurai

Players: 2- 4
Playing time: 30- 60mins

Samurai is a classic tile-placement game where players assume the roles of rival Daimyo in feudal Japan, trying to take control of the nation. Through strategically placing tiles, you’ll work to rise above your rivals and gain influence. 

Taking charge will be challenging. Players have to prove they can lead the nation’s cities and villages by establishing sway over lesser lords and religious figures, increasing rice production, and proving they have the most fierce samurai. Players will have to keep an eye on all three factions at once.

The rules are easy to learn but can be enriched with in-depth strategy making it a great option for newbies and advanced players.

Samurai

#8. Hanamikoji

Players: 2
Playing time: 15mins

Set in the old capital of Hanamikoji, geishas are beautiful and skilled women, greatly adored and respected in society. 

As a restaurateur, each player is attempting to gain the favor of the beloved geisha. Players work to outmaneuver their opponent through bold moves and careful speculation. Collecting each geisha’s chosen performance item will gain points and ultimately win the game. 

Can you outsmart your opponent?

#9. Tsuro

Tsuro Board Game box and components

Players: 2- 8
Playing time: 15- 20mins

A path of ever-changing mystery!

Tsuro is a simple game where players lay down a tile to ensure their token continues moving along their path. The aim is to keep your token on the board for the longest. Although a simple premise, the board fills up with each player’s tiles and finding a path becomes more difficult. 

As Tsuro only takes about 15 minutes to play, its fast turnover gives players a chance to try new strategies, especially new players. 

Tsuro
$33.25

Buy on Amazon Buy at Noble Knight
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2022 03:31 am GMT

#10. Yokohama

Players: 2- 4
Playing time: 90mins

Once just a fishing village, Yokohama has become a popular harbor open to foreign trade. Trading is booming as Japanese products such as copper and raw silk are exported to distant lands. The city has modernized with technology, developed streets, and mercantile activity. 

Trying to gain fame and fortune, each player takes on the role of a Yokohama merchant. Building stores, broadening networks, learning sales techniques, and exporting to traders abroad are all just a few tasks you’ll need to take on. 

Yokohama is a fun economic board game where players work to build their networks and strategically place their workers. Will you gain your claim to fame as Yokohama’s most dominant merchant?

Or check availability at Amazon:

Yokohama

#11. Age of War

Players: 2- 6
Playing time: 15- 30mins

In a time of devastating war and strife, Japan’s emperors have grown weak as warlords attacked and pillaged neighboring clans. With each and every attack, unification becomes a distant memory. To unify the clans, one leader must rise above the rest. 

Age of War is a fast-paced dice game that comes with seven custom dice. To muster your troops and establish sieges, you’ll need to assemble a unique combination of troops. Besiege the 14 different castles, and you’ll find yourself the victor. 

Age of War is quick-playing with 14 cards. For each card won, victory points are given. The board game has simple rules, but players need to fight tirelessly to gain power over Japan.

Age of War

#12. Machi Koro

Machi Koro Board Game

Players: 2- 4
Playing time: 30mins

Machi Koro is a modern Japanese board game where players are on a mission to build four major landmarks. Be the first to complete your city and win! 

It’s a fast-paced game, but there are still many pretty big demands that’ll need your attention. Jobs, factories, radio towers, and even a theme park are needed! May seem simple enough, but at the start of the game, the city is nothing more than wheat fields and a single bakery. 

But, you’ve got vision and are determined to see it through. Players try to earn money by rolling one or two dice. They can then choose cards that correspond to the same amount of money collected. Money will help you build, and developments gain you more income. But, make sure your rivals aren’t stealing from you.

It’s time to get to work! 

Machi Koro
$29.99

Buy on Amazon Buy at Noble Knight
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/04/2022 06:34 am GMT

Wrap-Up

We hope you enjoyed our list of the best Japanese board games! Fight as a samurai, cultivate your own zen garden, or travel back in time to feudal Japan with these Japan-themed board games. Japanese culture is as rich as the history of the island is long — and full of compelling adventures and challenges when it comes to tabletop games.

Have you tried any of the games on this list? Did we miss any of your favorites? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.

SHARING IS CARING

Related Articles:

2 Responses

  1. Would be great if your 12 japanese board games would in fact be japanese.

    Out of the 12 you mentioned, only 5 are really japanese, the other 7 have a japanese theme but were designed and published by european or american designers and publishers.

    Tokaido – french
    Rising Sun – american
    Ohanami – german
    Shogun – american
    Samurai – german
    Tsuro – american
    Age of War – german

    1. Hi Antoine, Thanks for your feedback and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate where you are coming from and agree that 100% Japanese board games are preferable. However, we were hoping to get people interested in Japanese-themed board games (as well as traditional Japanese board games) that were accessible to English speakers and available to purchase in the global marketplace. Do you have any suggestions for Japanese games that should be included in this list that non-Japanese speakers could play? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Thanks and happy gaming, Kendra

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *