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Best Japan themed Board Games

This post was last updated on November 24th, 2023

It wasn’t easy at all writing this best Japan themed board games list, as there is a wide amount of games with different style and unique thematic.

And this is also Japan in a way. A country that is able to fascinate even just by looking at its pictures.

I tried to cover all the flavours that this theme can offer and I truly hope you’ll find something in line with your taste!

If like me, you have always dreamt of a trip to this beautiful country, the following games might help you feel one step closer to this charming destination.

さぁ、始めよう!


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Best Japan themed board games

BEST JAPAN THEMED BOARD GAMES

Tokaido
2-5 players | 45min | 8+

King of Tokyo
2-6 players | 30min | 8+

Kanagawa
2-4 players | 45min | 10+

Takenoko
2-4 players | 45min | 8+

Machi Koro
2-4 players | 30min | 10+

Battle For Rokugan
2-5 players | 60-90 min | 14+

Yokohama
2-4 players | 90 min | 14+

Sushi Go Party!
2-8 players | 20 mins | Age 8+

Rising Sun
3 – 5 players | 60 – 120 min | 14+

Hanabi
2-5 players | 20-25 min | 8+

Tokaido

A journey into the Edo Era through hot springs, beautiful landscapes and food.

Tokaido board games cover

Start your journey on the “East sea road”, one of the most scenic routes in Japan. 
The purpose of this adventure is not to be the first to reach Tokyo, but to be the one who enjoys the travel and experiences the most.

Which is the best part of a journey for you? Tasting local dishes, collecting souvenirs, relaxing in hot springs, discovering beautiful panoramas or visiting temples? 

Well, this is up to you to decide, just make sure that you become the most experienced!

If you are a holiday planner type of person, unfortunately, this journey is not for you.
The last traveler on the road, between each Inn, moves first and can decide which will be the next destination.
You can decide to enjoy the road as much as you can, stop at every hot spring or, why not, steal your friends’ stops.

If you decide to be the first to arrive at the next Inn, you will get a nice and worthed meal but you will be the last one to leave.

Timing each action is very crucial here, as it can hurt your rivals as well as yourself!

Tokaido is a unique game that can be played with different mindsets.
It can be a slow-paced relaxing experience in which you play for the pure desire to enjoy the amazing artwork and remembering your past travels to Japan (if you’re lucky enough to have been there!)

But, it can also be a cutthroat strategic game, in which you can literally screw your opponents’ plans by placing your meeple on certain action spaces and block their strategy. 

Personally, every time I find myself playing Tokaido, I do it with a zen mood mindset without caring to win as much as I do on other games.

The only cons of this game is the replayability, practically near zero.
This is how it goes: you play the first game and you get amazed. So, you play the second game, still amazed. Then you play the third game, and that is it.

Tokaido
  • TRAVEL THE FAMED TOKAIDO ROAD: Welcome to the Tokaido, the legendary East Sea Road connecting Kyoto to Edo, in Japan. In Tokaido, each player is a traveler crossing the “East Sea Road”, one of the most magnificent roads of Japan. Here you will begin an extraordinary journey during which you will discover a thousand marvels.
  • ADVENTURE GAME: While traveling, you will meet people, taste fine meals, collect beautiful items, discover great panoramas and visit temples and wild places but at the end of the day, when everyone has arrived at the end of the road you’ll have to be the most initiated traveler – which means that you’ll have to be the one who discovered the most interesting and varied things.
  • STRATEGY BOARD GAME: Action spaces are laid out on a linear track with players advancing down this track to take actions. Players must choose whether to advance slowly along the track in order to get more turns or to travel more rapidly to beat other players to their desired action spaces.

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King of Tokyo

Take over Tokyo and become the King!

Wondering how Godzilla feels while destroying cities? Well, now you can!
King of Tokyo is a quick game, wherein a death fight giant monsters try to destroy and rule over Tokyo. 

The mechanic is pretty easy, each turn you roll six dice, which show six different symbols: 1, 2, or 3 Victory Points, Energy, Heal, and Attack.
Over three successive throws, choose whether to keep or discard each die in order to win victory points, gain energy, restore health, or attack other players into keeping clear that Tokyo is your territory. You challenge your opponents in a life/death battle.

Once you manage to enter and occupy Tokyo, you need to face another phase of the game: you can’t heal and all the other monsters play against you!

To be crowned King you either gain 20 victory points or be the only surviving monster once the fight ends.

I like this game, it’s really fun and it can entertain you for hours and hours!
It’s a super simple game, with easy rules to understand and explain, awesome artwork and a very low strategy. Yes, the whole game mechanic plays around a dice rolling system, in which, of course, luck is the main pivot.

That being said, even if you’re not a dice fan in board games, please give it a go! 

P.S.: that “please” is for you, do a favour to yourself and try this game out. 

King of Tokyo
  • For 2-6 players
  • 30 minute playing time
  • New artwork by Regis Torres, illustrator of King of new York!

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Kanagawa

Find the perfect balance between culture and nature and paint the most beautiful Japanese scenarios.

Kanagawa board games cover

This game brings you back in time, 1840 to be precise. You are one of Master Hokusai’s disciples and you need to prove to him that you are worthy to be there.

Following his teachings you will have to expand your studio, in order to upgrade your abilities and master the art of painting.

Choose your path and style, but be aware of the other “classmates” that might steal your ideas!

The variety of skills to master leaves you guessing until the end of other players’ choices and makes you doubt your own choices.
Each player is an opponent until you count the points.

If you want to spice things up a little, the “Yokai” expansion might come in handy. 

New families of elements are added and more importantly the introduction of 3 yokai.
These Japanese demons help you get a diploma or negative points if you keep them until the end of the game!

Kanagawa
  • For 2-4 players
  • 45 minute playing time
  • A collection game from the award-winning duo Cathala (five tribes) and chevalier (Abyss)

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Takenoko

Create a flourishing bamboo garden to please a hungry panda.

Takenoko board games cover

Put on your garden boots, you’re about to become a gardener! 
Each turn you will have to roll the die to determine the weather’s effect and then, perform an action to complete your objective. 

Will you be able to grow your bamboo garden, or will one of your opponents waste all your hard work in order to save his/hers?

One thing is for sure, you can’t get mad at this cute little panda, can you? 

Takenoko is a family-friendly game, it can be competitive but overall you play mostly to have fun without breaking any friendships. 

Its gameplay is fast and quick to learn; this makes Takenoko a perfect game to play with kids or with someone new at your game night, they will get the full experience right from the start.

Takenoko
  • A GARDENING ADVENTURE: Immerse yourself in the delightful world of Takenoko, where you step into the role of gardeners tending to the Emperor’s Giant Panda and cultivating a vibrant bamboo plantation.
  • PANDA-MONIUM: Face the whimsical challenges of a mischievous panda who can’t resist munching on your precious bamboo! Can you strategically grow bamboo while keeping the panda’s appetite in check?
  • STRATEGIC GAMEPLAY: Plan your moves carefully. Farm and irrigate land parcels, nurturing green, yellow, and pink bamboo varieties. Choose from various actions, including expanding your bamboo fields or completing objective cards.

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Machi Koro

Become the Mayor of Machi Koro and try to fulfil all your citizens’ requests.

I’ve always enjoyed playing video games like “Sim City”, the only problem? I always got bored after a while (lol).

Machi Koro comes in handy, same purpose but a lot quicker!

As you have probably already understood, the aim of this game is to build a city. 
Well, it might seem simple and easy, but what if your opponents are trying to do the exact same thing?

In Machi Koro, you need to prove that your abilities, as a mayor of the city, are the best among all the players, by fulfilling all the citizens’ requests and/or building landmarks. 

This board game is easy to learn and quick to play, so it’s perfect at the beginning or end of the night.
At the same time though, if played too many times on the same night, can end up being a bit repetitive.

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Machi Koro
  • CITY-BUILDING FUN: Step into the shoes of the newly elected Mayor of Machi Koro and embark on a thrilling city-building adventure! Develop your city, collect income, and watch it flourish as you roll the dice in your favor.
  • GLOBALLY ACCLAIMED: Join the ranks of millions of fans worldwide with Machi Koro, a global smash hit that has sold over 1 million copies. This game is a must-have for your collection.
  • AWARD-WINNING EXCELLENCE: Discover why Machi Koro has earned multiple awards and nominations, captivating players with its engaging gameplay and strategic challenges. It’s a game that continues to earn recognition for its exceptional entertainment value.

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Battle for Rokugan

Bring honor to your clan by conquering the realm.

Battle For Rokugan board games cover

Battle for Rokugan puts players in the roles of daimyō of the Great Clans fighting for territory. Daimyō deploy forces to gain control of provinces, which earn them honor and spread their influence across the land.

It is an asymmetrical area control board game, based in the Legend of Five Rings universe.
A game of Battle for Rokugan is played over a series of five rounds.
Each round consists of the following three phases that players resolve in order: the upkeep phase, the placement phase, and the resolution phase.

The game ends after five rounds. Each player reveals their secret objective card and determines their total Honor.

Being an asymmetrical game means that each clan has its own abilities and strengths, and this is probably one of the best features together with the absence of dice.

Yes, instead of dice rolls there is a fog of war mechanic that consists in placing your tokens (which have a variety of strength) facedown on the board, letting you build your strategy with the aim of conquering territories. Bluffs are a thing here, if well played.

To summarize even more, what do I think of this game?

As soon as I saw this game my first thought was “Oh Gosh, this time I need to really pay attention to the rules”.
But surprisingly, I didn’t find the rules sheet hard at all. It’s literally 10-15 minutes of explanation, which is incredible for such a big game!

It is probably one of the best area control games ever made and one of those that should be there on your shelves.

Battle for Rokugan
  • Strategy based gameplay engages both new and experienced players
  • Secret objectives and clan-specie C abilities offer multiple paths to victory
  • Beautifully illustrated components immerse players in the world of Rogan

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Yokohama

Prove your trading skills and become Yokohama’s most successful merchant

Meiji Era.
Yokohama was just a sleepy fishing village, but now it’s become a crucial hub of trade in Japan.

Each player is a merchant of Yokohama, striving to gain fame through successful business ventures.
There are a number of ways to gain fame, such as displaying trade goods ordered by foreign traders, learning foreign technology, and developing the city by building shophouses and trading houses.

In order to fulfil these goals, players will need to roam the streets of Yokohama, gaining its various benefits or seeking the cooperation of foreign mercenaries.

Which player will become the most capable merchant of Yokohama?

Yokohama is a worker placement board game that has a huge variety of winning options, that makes you feel never out of the run.
Thanks to the modular board, the replayability is very high and you can learn the game while enjoying different scenarios every time you play.

The learning curve of the game though is its biggest cons. You need more than one game to properly learn how to play it.

Overall I think it’s a good all-round game, that balances difficulty and resources management.
If you like these kinds of games, this is for you!

On the other hand, because of its steep learning curve, I’d not recommend this game to casual gamers.

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Yokohama
  • Package Dimensions: 11.75 L x 8.75 H x 2.6 W (inches)
  • Package Weight: 5.03 pounds
  • Country of Origin : China

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Sushi-Go Party!

Become an expert in creating sushi combinations, become the sushi master!

Sushi Go Party! board games cover

In this fast-playing card game, the goal is to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by. 
Mega maki, super sashimi, nigiri and endless edamame are some of the featured foods in the game. 

You earn points by picking winning sushi combos (e.g.making the most maki rolls or for collecting a full set of sashimi) and you can customize each game by choosing à la carte from a menu of more than twenty delectable dishes.

Dip your favourite nigiri in wasabi to triple its value, but be sure to leave room for dessert or else you’ll eat into your score! 
Gather the most points and consider yourself the sushi master!

This game has the well-known “draft and pass” mechanic, already seen in 7Wonders and other games.
Round to round you need to evaluate the cards you should keep and the ones to pass.

Thinking about clever plays is the way to go to win the game over the opponent!

Overall this is a very fun game! It is so good that it has also been featured in our personal best two-player board games list!
What a missed opportunity the poor quality of the components.

Sushi Go Party!
  • It’s a party! This party platter of Mega make, super sashimi, and endless edamame in this expanded version of the best-selling card game.
  • Sushi go! For larger appetites! You still earn points by picking winning sushi combos, but now you can customize each game by choosing a la carte from a menu of more than 20 delectable dishes. What’s more, up to 8 players can join in on the sushi-feast… let the good times roll!
  • Customize your difficulty level! This deluxe edition features opportunities to customize your playing experience.The overall game is basically the same, the variety of cards offers many new opportunities. You’ll also notice that the strategy changes

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Rising Sun

Lead your clan to victory through honour, alliances and betrayals!

Rising Sun board games cover

At the start of spring in the Great New Year, the Kami have gathered their sacred clans with one quest: reclaim the lands of Nippon and return them to their honorable, spiritual traditions.

These clan are five:

  • Koi
  • Dragonfly
  • Bonsai
  • Lotus
  • Turtle

All of them have unique detailed miniatures and different abilities, which affect players’ strategies.

Alliances must be forged, betrayal is inevitable, honorable standing rises and falls.
Only one may stand victorious at the coming of winter!

Rising Sun is a board game set in legendary feudal Japan, where players compete to lead their Clans to victory by accumulating Victory Points over the course of the 3 seasons, spring, summer, and autumn.

You can accumulate these points in several ways, from winning battles, to harvesting the right provinces, to playing to the Virtues accumulated by your Clan.

By the time winter arrives, the player with the most points will rule the Land of the Rising Sun!

I start by saying that this is probably a game not for everyone.
There is a strong interaction-between-players component (such as making alliances or betrayals) which can only be fully appreciated if you are playing with the right group of people, keen to deeply explore this mechanic.

The gameplay isn’t complicated and the rule book is well written.
This game though only supports the English language, so if you’re not too familiar with it, can be complicated to understand it.

Speaking about miniatures, they are really highly detailed and once painted they’ll become outstanding!
But, particularly the monsters miniatures, feel very wrong.

Even though they are three times bigger than the other miniatures, their impact on the game is massively inferior to their impact on the visuals. And, personally speaking, this is kind of a shame.

Overall I think this game is good if played with the right people and with a couple of hours minimum to spare.
If you find this game at the right cost, I’d say give it a go!

Rising Sun
  • For 3 to 5 players: 90 to 120 minute playing time
  • Unique battle system : Eric m. Lang has developed a completely innovative battle system that forces players to bluff their intentions and outthink the competition
  • Fantasy art : Artwork by the legendary Adrian Smith Will transport players to a fantastical version of feudal Japan that retains all of the beauty of traditional legends

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Hanabi

Try to create all types of fireworks without knowing your cards.

Yet, another game by Antoine Bauza to close the circle. Guess who loves him?

Hanabi is one of those games that could trick you; it may seem super easy but in reality is quite deep.

The game is based on cooperation and communication; you are not allowed to speak unless it’s your turn and, when you get the opportunity, you need to hope that the other player gets your hint.
Oh right! I forgot to mention that you can’t see your cards but only the other players.

The purpose of this game is to complete all the fireworks in all their colours.

Each turn players can decide to give limited hints (regarding numbers or colors), play or discard a card. 

In this way, it’s quite rare that players know all the cards in their hands and the absence of talking and plotting makes you question what others expect from you.

The game is really simple and quick, perfect when you don’t have much time and energy. 
Also, its small size makes this game ideal to bring it everywhere.

A bit of a final alert. This is one of the games that either you love or hate. It’s black or white, there’s no middle ground. 

There is a fine cleverness though, and you have to find it to fully appreciate the concept of this game

Hanabi
  • For 2-5 Players
  • 2013 Spiele Des Jahres Game Of The Year
  • Takes About 20-30 Minutes To Play

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