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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Japanese Monopoly Board Game

Here's something I dug up from my basement yesterday - a Japanese version of Monopoly that I bought in 1993 and just removed the plastic wrap from in 2013.

Brand new, the game cost me ¥30,000 (~$30) and was purchased at some place called Loft in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.
In the background is a soccer photo from when I was eight. My son does NOT believe that was me.

I'm the kid to the left (our left) of the keeper. I still recall three of the kid's names in the photo. I was 8. We won everything that year - League, Cup... and I went on to play Rep after that the next year. I guess I was okay...
I bought it to act as a reminder of my time in Japan, little realizing that one day I would be writing a blog with over 2,000 entries, over 2,000 hits a day and quickly approaching 1-million total hits - not all of them from myself.

So... I opened it up.

I already knew the properties were Japanese ones, but although I sure as hell can't read the Kanji names written on the board, I did discover what all of the names are:

So, without much further ado (which is about nothing), here is what a Japanese Monopoly board looks like, starting at the GO panel and moving clock-wise as you would in any game of Monopoly from Parker Brothers... but this version is from Tomy... which I can only assume has the rights to package and distribute this game on behalf of Parker Brothers in Japan...

Actually, before 1985, Tomy was the distributor of Monopoly in Japan - but this edition I have is copyrighted 1990 according to the writing in the middle of the game board. So, who the hell knows...

Board spaces to the left of GO are:

Sapporo (Hokkaido) - Challenge - Sendai (Miyazaki-ken) ('Ken' means Prefecture/State Province) - Souzokuzei  (Succession taxes) - Kitanihontetudou (North Japan Railway) - Niigata (Niigata-ken) - Chance - Toyama (Toyama-ken) - Kanazawa (Ishigawa-ken);  

Visiting theJail - Nagasaki  (Nagasaki-ken) - Denryoku kaisha (Electricity company) - Naha (Okinawa-ken) - Fukuoka (Fukuoka-ken) - Minaminihontetudou (South Japan Railway) - Matuyama (Ehime-ken) - Challenge - Takamatu (Kagawa-ken) - Hiroshima (Hiroshima-ken); 

Chuushajou (Free Parking) - Gifu (Gigu-ken) - Chance - Shizuoka (Shizuoka-ken) - Nagoya (Aichi-ken) - Nishinihontetedou (West Japan Railway) - Nara (Nara-ken) - Kobe (Hyogo-ken) - Suidoukaisha (Water Works) - Kyoto(Kyoto-fu) ('Fu' means Metropolitan area); 

Keimusho e haire (Go to Jail) - Chiba (Chiba-ken) - Tokorozawa (Saitama-ken)- Challenge - Yokohama (Kanagawa-ken) - Higashinihontetudou (East Japan Railway) - Chance - Umeda(Osaka-fu) - Buppinzei (Luxury tax) and Ginza (tokyo-to) ('To' means capital).
Which leads us back to GO.

The Chance cards are red, and the Community Chest cards are now replaced by something called 'Challenge' cards, which are blue. (American Monopoly Community Chest cards are yellow, and the Chance cards are Blue - orange if you have the older sets - I have one from the 1930s - wooden tokens, houses and hotels et al.)

On the game board, the Chance space is represented by a red question mark, but the Challenge has a blue exclamation mark on it (rather than the old treasure COMMUNITY chest).

Hotels are red plastic and the Houses are dark green and plastic - and all look like the US versions - a chance to create a uniquely Japanese feel was lost... we could have had Castles and typical Japanese homes with the beautiful Japanese-style roofs.

I was always quite taken with the Japanese roofs, and took many a photo of them. I'm not sure why, except that the roofs were something that seemed so beautiful and alien to me, whose own shingled roof needs replacing...

The Money is in Yen, with the smallest bills being the white 10 Yen; pink 50 Yen; yellow 100 Yen; green 200 Yen; blue 500 Yen; grey 1,000 Yen; and orange 5,000 Yen.

The colors of the property deeds are the same as in the American edition, and the utilities are basically the same... but, I did notice an interesting thing with the four railroads.

Rather than the four old steam locomotive motif used on the American cards, Japan's version uses the classic - and the current - 1980s-early 1990s Shinkansen bullet trains... but three of them are blue colored, and one - the Northern one, is green. I have no idea why.

Tokens are the same basic ones currently used in the US sets - which is disappointing, as I hoped there might be chopsticks, a bicycle, a geisha, a sushi piece - things that would make the game uniquely Japanese. But no.

There was also a Tokyo version of Monopoly, in which the streets and railroads are the districts (Roppongi, Ikebukuro and Ginza), and subway stations of Tokyo (Seibu Tetsudo and Keio Tesudo).

Of course, the Japanese can also purchase the American version of the game, too.

As mentioned, this is a virgin game for me - 20 years old and never been played. As a nerdy teenager, I used to play Monopoly a lot - entering competitions when such things actually existing and never losing.. though I did have to forfeit my place in the Finals once as I was at a competition without anyone's permission and had to beat a hasty retreat home before I was found out.

Of course... after a while, no one wanted to play against me, and I discovered video games that I could play against myself. I still refuse to do on-line gaming.

And yet... I miss board games... I used to have over 40 of them... and rarely had anyone to play with, as my friends preferred shoplifting to having fun. My parents were busy, and my brother seven years too young, It's his birthday today as I write this - Happy Birthday, Ben!

If I can get my son's head out of a video game console, perhaps I'll teach him the nuances of Monopoly one day. I'm afraid it will have to be the American version - I can't read the effing kanji!

Race you to GO!

Andrew Joseph


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    1. Not as popular as in the west... and not as popular as it was before video games. I'm sure people still play it, but I doubt they had tournaments like what they had here in Toronto when I was a kid back in the 70s and I'm sure earlier.
      Cheers, Joe.