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1925 Japanese Sugoroku or 'Snakes and Ladders' Map of Japan Gameboard

Tetsudō kyōsō Sugoroku [Railway Race Sugoroku]. - Main View

1925 Japanese Sugoroku or 'Snakes and Ladders' Map of Japan Gameboard


Stunning Japanese chromolithograph Sugoroku gameboard.



Tetsudō kyōsō Sugoroku [Railway Race Sugoroku].
  1925 (dated)     28.5 x 42 in (72.39 x 106.68 cm)     1 : 995000


A scarce and dramatically produced c. 1925 (Taisho 14) board for the Japanese game known as sugoroku. The board depicts the islands of Japan oriented in a northwesterly direction - as was common in railway maps of the period. The essence of the game, generally known as simplified sugoroku, is akin to the western board game, snakes and ladders. Here players move along Japan's nascent rail road networks as they make their way to the finish. The game board here highlights Japans economic prosperity and technological advances. Railways provide the network of gameplay, airplanes fill the sky, happy children wave patriotic flags from a balloon, and both sea and land bustle with life.

Historically there are two variants of sugoroku, one that is similar to backgammon, and the presently offered 'snakes and ladders' variant. This version of the game appeared as early as the 13th century, and was popularized by the rise of printing technology, especially in the Edo and Meiji periods, and subsequent availability of high-quality visually-arresting gameboards.

A standard sugoroku board has a starting point, the furi-dashi, and a winding or spiral path terminating at the agari or finish-line. The gameplay itself, not unlike 'snakes and ladders,' is a race to the finish. This board is unusual in that there are no apparent furi-dashi or agari points. Two points, nonetheless do stand out, Tokyo and Osaka, though it is not clear why or what path the gameplay might take. Some stops, such as Gifu and Kyoto, have a thick blue outline; some, such as Nara and Toyohashi, have a circular red border; while the rest are solid red dots. What these mean is unclear.

There are gameplay instructions to the printed below and to the left of Hokkaido, but my poor Japanese is not up to the task. Nonetheless this map is a visually spectacular and iconic example of Japanese chromo-lithographic engraving of the late Taisho period.


Very good. Backed on archival tissue for stability.