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Japanese Culture
Sugoroku
Sugoroku (双六, すごろく, Sugoroku) - Refers to two different forms of a Japanese board game, one similar to western backgammon and the other similar to western Snakes and Ladders. Sugoroku plays identically to backgammon (it even has the same starting position), except for the following differences:

Doubles are not special. If a player rolls doubles, each die still counts only once.
There is no "bearing off". The goal is to move all of one's men to within the last six spaces of the board.
There is no doubling cube.
It is not permitted to form a prime of six contiguous points to obstruct one's opponent.

The game is thought to have been introduced from China (where it was known as Shuang-liu) into Japan in the sixth century. It is known that in the centuries following the game's introduction into Japan it was made illegal several times, most prominently in 689 and 754. This is because the simple and luck-based nature of sugoroku made it an ideal gambling game. This version of sugoroku and records of playing for gambling continuously appeared until early Edo era. In early Edo-era, a new and quick gambling game called Hanchō (半丁) appeared and using sugoroku for gambling quickly dwindled.

This variant of the backgammon family has died out in most other countries, but it is still popular in Japan, partially due to a boost caused by the inclusion of a free Sugoroku board with the first issue of the newspaper Kingu (in 1925) which sold 740,000 copies.

A simpler sugoroku, with the similar rules as Snakes and Ladders appeared as early as late 13th century and helped by the cheap and elaborate wooden block printing technology of Edo period, it became a popular game. Thousands of variations of boards were made with pictures and themes from religion, political, actors, and even adult material. In Meiji and later period, this variation of game remained popular often included as a game in kid-oriented magazines.

In 1968, Takara introduced Jinsei Game (人生ゲーム Jinsei Gēmu) as a Japanese version of The Game of Life and this became an instant hit by using a roulette instead of dice and by offering alternative goals beside quickly reaching the goal. This game was periodically updated introducing many timely topics and sold over 10 million sets to date.

Information source: “Sugoroku.” wikipedia.org. Article date: 22 Dec. 2007. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2008 <Sugoroku>.





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