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Japan's Backgammon
"Nihongo", this is probably the first Japanese word you will learn when you arrive into Japan. It is the Japanese greeting for Hello, and in polite Japanese society is the correct way of addressing the Japanese.

In Japan there are many customs and traditions that have been passed down through the centuries and are still performed today, among these is the Japanese variation of backgammon Sugoroku: a game similar to tric-trac or backgammon is ban-sugoroku (board sugoroku).

The translation for Sugoroku, literally means "two sixes." Which possibly originates from the Chinese characters used in the name for Chinese versions of the game shuang lu, which has a similar meaning. The "Two (or double) sixes” signifies twelve boxes, or spaces, referring to the two rows of twelve spaces each on the board.

Sugoroku is akin to backgammon in rules and the opening positions of the pieces, the checkers or stones, are also identical. Perhaps the biggest difference between the styles of the games is the design of the board and its proportions and playing surface.

The Japanese Sugoroku board looks like a box, with its top face divided into three parallel sections. Two outer sections, each divided into twelve rectangular spaces, flank the center section, where the checkers taken from the opponent are placed. Conventional, modern backgammon boards are a design based on elongated triangular spaces.

Backgammon has been recognized as the oldest game of its type in the world, Sugoroku is the oldest known board game in Japan. In many ways the paths of these two games though different are very like, in that backgammon enjoyed great popularity during its halcyon days and then its appeal waned.

This is true of Sugorku also which was the top game in Japan in the 12th to the 16th century, but after that fell out of favour replaced by card and dice games.

In recent years backgammon has begun its own renaissance and has increased its global appeal dramatically with the help of internet online backgammon sites.

Perhaps now is the time that Sugorku could also take this initiative and once again rise from the shadows into the Sunlight. This could be a possibility in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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