Japanese Friday: Traditional Games

Japanese Friday: Traditional Games

Japan is known for creating some of the best games of the modern era: Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Pac-man, and Space Invaders. However, Japan’s gaming scene started long before the advent of video games. Today, we’ll be taking a dive into a couple of Japan’s other beloved games and how you can play them.

Daruma Otoshi

Daruma Otoshi is one of the most simple yet frustrating Japanese games. Similar to Jenga, you are given a tower with different levels, and, using a small wooden hammer, you must knock out the centrepieces, counting how many blocks you can take out before the Daruma, the frowning wooden face, tumbles down. You can also play with a friend, taking turns to knock out the centrepieces before the tower topples over.


Shogi (pronounced “show’ ghee” like in geese), also called Game of Generals, is the Japanese equivalent of chess. Originally, like all modern variants of chess, it originated from the Indian game ‘chaturanga’. Shogi was first played in Japan in the mid-11th century. The goal is similar to Western chess – capture the king by putting him in checkmate. The two sides alternate in turns, moving only one piece at a time. Certain pieces have similar roles and names to their Western counterparts (such as the King, Rook, and Pawn), while some are unique to shogi (like the Silver General, Gold General, and Lance). The pieces are arranged as shown below, similar to classic chess.

Shogi has developed into its own, distinguishing itself from Western chess. Why not give it a try if you ever visit Japan? Who knows, you might even become a Meijin (the highest honor a professional shogi player can achieve) as you indulge in the great game that is shogi.

Although Japan is well-known for their video-games, it had its humble beginnings in its traditional games, such as shogi and daruma otoshi. Through these games’ addicting and strategy-based nature, it’s no wonder how Japan got so popular with their staple video-games. Give these games a try and let us know what you think!

Written by Karen Y. (Grade 9) and Ikaia A. (Grade 11); Feature image by Karen Y. (Grade 9)

The views expressed in this article represent the personal views of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Dragon’s Print and Cebu International School.


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