Koinyobo somewake tazuna

There are two types of Japanese board games that use dice: e sugoroku (picture dice games) and ban sugoroku (board dice games).
Ban sugoroku is virtually identical to the game of backgammon, in which two players move their pieces around a board. Although ban sugoroku became popular among aristocrats during the 5th and 6th centuries, it fell out of fashion during the Edo period.
In contrast to ban sugoroku, e sugoroku is very similar to the board game Snakes and Ladders and became popular during the Edo period as an everyday pastime. Originally, there was a form called mawari sugoroku, in which players rolled the dice to see who could move their pieces around the board first. Gradually, this game evolved to include squares that had penalties, like “lose one turn,” or introduce a new form called tobi sugoroku (jumping dice games), in which players move to specific spaces on the board based on dice rolls and the instructions written on each square.
Although sugoroku is basically a game for children, there are some versions that are rather difficult to play. It is likely that these more difficult versions were intended to be played by children together with adults or older siblings. Many of the brightly colored e sugoroku boards were painted by well-known illustrators, so they were meant not just to be a pastime but also to have some kind of aesthetic value.
This series features Edo-period e sugoroku from the holdings of the NDL with boards that depict famous places, people, and social customs.

  • A string in square brackets is a NDL Call Number.
  • High-definition images are available in the National Diet Library Digital Collections. Those that are labelled NDL Digital Collections can be viewed via the Internet on any computer. Those labelled Restricted access means that the image can only be viewed on computer terminals at the NDL or an affiliated library. For more information, please refer to the Digitized Contents Transmission Service for Libraries webpage.
  • The original Japanese-language article first appeared in January 2013 as part of Small Electronic Exhibitions Kaleidoscope of Books, No. 12. Please note that the descriptions herein are based on information that was current at that time.

1st Move: Visiting Famous Places

Back to top