Box for Ancient Japanese Backgammon

Game board all set up

November 2009

horizontal rule


Game board open with pieces inside

Sugoroku is version of Backgammon that was played in Japan in ancient times. Backgammon was probably brought to Japan by Portugese traders, and adapted to local styles. The name is used now for any board game that involves moving pieces according to dice rolls, but the ancient version is almost exactly like Backgammon. The differences are:

Some Sugoroku boards are like small tables, but others are double-box style like this one. I chose to make this style because it is a little more portable, and it provides storage space for the Sugoroku pieces and maybe a few other games. Here you can see it with the top removed, and the pieces inside.


Game board devoid of pieces

The box is made of poplar lumber. Most of it is made of quarter-inch poplar scant, but the playing surface is thicker, made from poplar 1-by-12. I rabbeted the edge of the board so that the sides of the box could enclose a portion of the playing surface. The box bottom is made entirely of scant, though the bottom surface had to be edge-glued to be wide enough. All of the box surfaces were stained with tannic acid and iron acetate, and finished with linseed oil.

Dice of horn and bone, plus bamboo dice cup

I bought the dice from a Pennsic merchant called Thomas the Lapidary. Two dice are made of horn, and two of bone. The dice cup is a short length of bamboo. I included the node from the bamboo so that I wouldn't have to make a bottom for the cup.

Game pieces of stained and unstained poplar

The pieces are short lengths of poplar dowel. Some Sugoroku sets used discs like Backgammon, but other sets of which I've seen pictures used cylinders like these. They're just one inch lengths of one inch dowel. You can see that half of them were stained with\ tannic acid and iron acetate, while half were left natural. All of them were finished with linseed oil.

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