best Japanese board games

by | Apr 10, 2024 | reviews

Hey, friends! We’re thrilled to share with you a slice of something we absolutely adore: Japanese board games. They are like gateways to rich cultural experiences, much like the unique outdoor gatherings we meticulously curate.

Each game we’ve selected serves as engaging entertainment and sparks conversations about history, strategy, and artistry, much like the conversations our picnics are designed to inspire among friends and family.

The Best Selection of Japanese Board Games

🏆 Yellow Mountain Imports Go Game Set

The Yellow Mountain Imports Dark Cherry Pattern Folding Go Game Set blends traditional aesthetics and practical design. It features a foldable dark cherry veneer board with gold-colored grids, ensuring easy storage and portability.

yellow mountain imports go game set

Rating: 4.7 four and a half stars based on 300+ reviews

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This set includes:

  • A folding wooden board with a dark cherry veneer and gold-colored grids, measuring 18.74 x 17.56 x 0.79 inches with a 19×19 playing field, offers elegance and practicality for storage and travel.
  • 361 double convex melamine stones (181 black and 180 white), each measuring 7.5 x 21 millimeters. These durable stones provide a satisfying feel and aesthetic appeal during play.
  • Felt-lined storage compartments inside the board and decorative metal clasps ensure the stones are well-organized and the board securely closed after use.

How to play:

The game of Go is a classic strategy contest that originated in China over 2,500 years ago. It focuses on capturing territory on a 19×19 grid board.

Players take turns placing black or white stones, aiming to control more territory than their opponent by surrounding empty spaces or capturing the opponent’s stones. The game ends when both players agree no beneficial moves remain, and the winner is determined by who controls the most territory, including any captured stones.

Go emphasizes respect for the opponent, which extends to greeting them before the game and thanking them afterward.

⭐  Japanese Chess Game Set

The Yellow Mountain Imports Shogi Japanese Chess Magnetic Travel Game Set offers a perfect blend of tradition and portability, encapsulating the essence of the revered strategy game of Shogi, or Japanese Chess. Tailored for the avid strategy game enthusiast on the go, this set includes a magnetic board and pieces, ensuring stability during travel.

japanese chess game set

Rating: 4.5 four and a half stars based on 600+ reviews

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Key Features:

  • Classic Magnetic Shogi Set: The board measures an ideal 9.75 x 9.75 x 0.9 inches, making it portable without sacrificing playability.
  • Traditional Design with a Modern Twist: The game set includes a full complement of Shogi pieces—18 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 bishops, 4 lances, 4 knights, 4 silver generals, 4 gold generals, and 2 kings, each crafted with care from high-impact, durable plastic.
  • Benefits of Shogi: Known for enhancing logical reasoning, memory skills, strategic ability, and resource management,
  • Ready to Play Anywhere: Complete with a full English instruction manual, this lightweight set (0.9 lbs) is ideal for travel and learning.

Customers praise the set for its quality, value, and the convenience of its size. Despite some noting the magnets could be stronger, the overall sentiment is positive, highlighting its ease of transport and setup. Alongside your Japanese board for fun and engaging signage, the list of best picnic games keeps all your guests entertained.

Japanese Riichi Mahjong Set

The Yellow Mountain Imports Japanese Riichi Mahjong Set is an elegantly crafted game set that merges traditional gameplay with a sleek, modern design—the set features 144 standard-size tiles, each designed with a white face and yellow backside. The tiles are made from scratch-resistant melamine, ensuring durability and longevity.

japanese riichi mahjong set

Rating: 4.6 four and a half stars based on 600+ reviews

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Key Features:

  • Number of Players: 4
  • Authentic Japanese Gameplay: Tailored for Riichi Mahjong, this set includes 36 circles, 36 bamboo, 36 characters, 12 dragons, 16 winds, 4 flowers, and 4 red fives. It strictly adheres to Japanese rules without adaptations for American/Western or Chinese Mahjong.
  • Comprehensive Set: Beyond the beautifully crafted tiles, the set comes ready to play with four tile trays, four dice, a set of scoring sticks (tenbou), and an east wind tessera for seating arrangement.
  • Educational and Entertaining: Riichi Mahjong is known for its strategic depth, offering both a challenge to the mind and a test of one’s luck with its unique scoring rules and the inclusion of “Dora” tiles.

Reviewers have praised the set for its quality, appearance, and value, noting the well-crafted tiles and the pleasing contrast of the white and yellow design. The comprehensive inclusion of all necessary components for Riichi Mahjong has been particularly appreciated.

Its reputation for quality and comprehensive inclusion of gameplay elements keeps demand high. This set exemplifies educational value, strategic depth, and enjoyment. For more fun under the sun consider our selection of beach games.

Ogura Hyakunin Game

The Japanese Karuta Game Ogura Hyakunin Isshu by Angel Shoji, available from Malliah, brings the traditional Japanese poetry card game to life with a modern twist. Crafted from traditional Japanese card stock, the cards offer a sturdy and authentic feel suitable for the game’s dynamic action.

ogura hyakunin game

Rating: 4.8 four and a half stars based on 50+ reviews

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Why It’s Essential for You:

  • Inclusive Set: Designed for beginners and experienced players, the set includes 100 reading cards, 100 playing cards, and a CD for an immersive gameplay experience. The reading cards feature furigana for easy reading, while the playing cards are presented in clear hiragana.
  • Educational Value: Beyond entertainment, this Karuta set is an excellent tool for learning the Japanese language and poetry. The CD, featuring professional recordings of each poem, aids in pronunciation and memorization, while the modern Japanese paraphrases provide additional linguistic insight.

Karuta set is a prized possession for Japanese culture, literature, and language enthusiasts, providing endless hours of learning and entertainment.

Top Japanese Board Games for Unforgettable Fun

DV Game “Bonsai”

Dive into the serene world of bonsai cultivation with DV Games’ “Bonsai,” a board game that masterfully combines strategic gameplay with the artful and tranquil process of growing bonsai trees.

bonsai by DV games

Rating: 4.7 four and a half starsbased on 2,900+ reviews

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  • Number of Players: 2 to 4. It is a fantastic choice for family game nights or gatherings with friends, providing a blend of fun and learning for adults and kids.
  • Authentic Bonsai Experience: The game excels in theming, capturing the essence of bonsai cultivation in aesthetics and mechanics.
  • Strategic Gameplay: Boasting deep strategic tile placement mechanics, “Bonsai” challenges players to think critically and plan to grow their perfect bonsai tree for the Emperor’s Garden.

It is a unique board game that artfully bridges the gap between strategy gameplay and the peaceful art of bonsai cultivation. Its educational value, deep strategic elements, and the beauty of creating a bonsai tree make it a cherished game for anyone.

For more ideas on engaging your friends and family in exciting ways, explore our collection of fun group activities for adults, perfect for any gathering.

Funforge Tokaido Duo Game

Embark on a serene journey through the picturesque landscapes of Japan with “Tokaido: Duo,” a captivating board game from Funforge that brings the beauty and tradition of Japan to your tabletop.

funforge tokaido duo game

Rating: 4.7 four and a half starsbased on 40+ reviews

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Game Features:

  • Unique 2-Player Experience: Tailored for duos, “Tokaido: Duo” offers a beautiful and engaging gameplay experience where players embark on a spiritual journey across Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four islands, through the eyes of three distinct characters: the pilgrim, the trader, and the artist.
  • Diverse Strategies: Players will cultivate different aspects of their journey—visiting shrines and hot springs as the pilgrim, crafting and selling souvenirs as the trader, and painting vistas as the artist. Each path offers a unique way to gather points and enrich the pilgrimage experience.
  • Elegant Design: True to the Tokaido series’ reputation, this game boasts beautiful artwork and high-quality materials, enhancing the thematic journey through Japan.

Ideal for pairs seeking a quick yet deeply strategic game, it embodies the spirit of a pilgrimage with a delightful mix of planning, luck, and competition. Whether new to the Tokaido series or a seasoned traveler, this game promises to be a refreshing addition to your collection, offering a unique experience with every play.

Senjutsu: Battle for Japan Game

Lucky Duck Games’ Senjutsu: Battle for Japan transports players into the heart of ancient Japan with its samurai dueling game. Designed for 1-4 players aged 14 and up, it promises fast-paced action within 15-20 minutes per game, although some players suggest a longer learning curve.

senjutsu_ battle for japan game

Rating: 3.5 three and a half starsbased on 10+ reviews

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  • What`s in the box: 16 detailed plastic miniatures, 2 reversible battlefield boards, 324 game cards, additional tokens, standee opponents, and terrain pieces for dynamic gameplay
  • Diverse Characters: Choose from four distinct samurai with unique attributes and motivations, fostering varied gameplay and strategy.
  • Expansive Possibilities: The game offers thousands of combinations for deck construction, ensuring every duel feels fresh and challenging.

Its portrayal of samurai duels and the tactical depth offers a rewarding experience for dedicated players. While the game’s complexity and extensive setup may pose challenges, its immersive gameplay and strategic possibilities make it a noteworthy addition to the collection of any samurai or strategy game enthusiast.

Takenoko Matagot Game

Dive into the vibrant world of “Takenoko,” a family-friendly board game by Matagot that blends the tranquility of gardening with the playfulness of a panda’s antics. Designed for 2-4 players aged 8 and up, “Takenoko” offers an average playtime of 45 minutes filled with strategy, laughter, and the unique challenge of bamboo cultivation.

takenoko matagot game

Rating: 4.8 four and a half starsbased on 1,500+ reviews

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Game features:

  • Gardening Adventure: Players become gardeners to the Emperor of Japan, tasked with caring for his beloved giant panda by cultivating a beautiful bamboo garden.
  • Strategic Gameplay: Using various strategic actions, plan how to expand your bamboo garden, irrigate plots, and fulfill objectives under the unpredictable whims of the weather.
  • Weather Mechanic: The game introduces a weather system that influences players’ gardening actions, adding a layer of strategy and adaptability.

Feedback emphasizes “Takenoko’s” addictiveness and fun, pointing out that its strategic depth becomes more apparent and rewarding as players become familiar with the rules and dynamics. The game’s ability to captivate seasoned gamers and those new to the hobby is a testament to its thoughtful design and balance.

The benefits of Japanese board games

Incorporating board games into outdoor gatherings brings a unique flavor to the event and offers numerous benefits. Here are some key advantages:

  • Enhances Cultural Appreciation 🎌 Japanese board games often carry elements of their rich culture, from the artwork to the themes, helping players gain a deeper appreciation for Japan’s heritage.
  • Promotes Strategic Thinking 🧠♟️ Many of these games are designed to challenge the mind, encouraging players to think critically and plan, which is a delightful exercise for the brain amidst the relaxing setting of a picnic.
  • Fosters Social Interaction 🤝🗣️ These games provide a fantastic way for people to connect, encouraging conversation and teamwork, which is ideal for breaking the ice among guests who might not know each other well.
  • Adaptable Difficulty Levels 👶🎯 Whether it’s a simple game that children can enjoy or a complex one for adults, Japanese board games come in various difficulty levels, making them suitable for all ages.
  • Encourages Mindfulness and Patience 🧘‍♂️⏳🕊️ The thoughtful pace of many Japanese board games allows players to practice patience and mindfulness, offering a peaceful contrast to the fast-paced digital entertainment we’re accustomed to.


What makes Japanese board games unique compared to Western ones?

Japanese board games often stand out due to their innovative gameplay mechanics, thematic storytelling, and the incorporation of Japanese culture. Unlike many Western games that prioritize strategy and competition, Japanese board games frequently emphasize narrative, collaboration, and sometimes a blend of traditional and modern Japanese aesthetics. This unique approach offers players a game and an immersive cultural experience.

Are there any traditional Japanese board games that are still popular today?

Yes, “Shogi” (Japanese chess) and “Go” are two traditional games that remain popular in Japan and have gained international followings. With its unique piece promotion system and ability to use captured pieces, Shogi offers a dynamic twist on classic chess.

What is a good Japanese board game for children that can help them learn about Japanese culture?

“Takenoko” is an excellent choice for children. While not traditionally Japanese, it is set in Japan and involves caring for a panda and growing bamboo gardens. It’s a fun, engaging way to introduce children to elements of Japanese culture while developing strategic thinking and planning skills. The game’s components are colorful and charming, appealing to younger players.

Are there Japanese board games that focus on cooperation rather than competition?

“Hanabi” is a cooperative card game where players work together to create a spectacular fireworks display. Communication is limited, requiring players to infer what cards they hold based on their teammates’ actions and hints.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a commission if you purchase through these links at no extra cost.

Olga and Vlad Picnic Makers

Vlad and Olga

Hello, beautiful souls! 🌸 We’re Vlad and Olga, the storytellers behind each journey. Join us on this adventure as we share tales of joy, celebration, and a life well-lived. Thanks for being part of our magical story! 🌟

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