The Game Sugoroku: New Year’s Japanese Board Games

  • Sugoroku is a Japanese board game which has become a tradition for kids to play during the New Year’s Day. Usually children’s magazines would include additions to the game in their January issues. The history of Sugoroku can be traced back to the 12th century. In the 17th century, e-sugoroku (“e” meaning picture) which is an illustrated board game became popular among commoners.

    Sugoroku History

    Sugoroku is similar to the game of snake and ladders in which one would roll the dice and move the number of spaces based on the number on the dice. Originally, it was not a children’s game, played by adults. Becuase of the nature of the game which is based on luck, it turned into a popular game for gambling in the past, which also resulted in it being banned a few times.


    Various themes for the sugoroku boards have been created, ranging from fiction, politics, movies, and religion to even adult themes.

    For boys

    There are also sugoroku intended for separate genders. Pre-1950 games were based on adventures and voyages typically featuring male characters and were geared towards the male audience. In Shonen Maru Sekai Isshu Sugoroku, the board illustrates the adventure of a boy who leaves Yokohama by ship and travels around the world until finally returning home.

    For Girls

    In the past, games designed for girls were usually based on traditional female roles and domestic activities. For example, the board game Shinʾan Gendai Fujin Sugoroku illustrates the life of a girl from birth until marriage. Thus, the winner of the game is the one who gets married first by being the first to reach the final panel of the board.


    Modern versions of sugoroku include manga and anime themes such as the one which is based on Yowamushi Pedal.

    The sugoroku is a delightful game to play during the lazy January days as one does not need to think while playing the game but just throw the dice and making according to the dice. With so many themes available, you can not get easily bored of the sugoroku! Due to its simple gameplay, it is suitable for everyone, young or old!