Few games are more surreal than Monopoly, inspired, as it seemingly is, by a Roaring ’20s plutocrat’s mescaline-fueled bender through Atlantic City. But which is weirder: the American version, or Japan’s? In the former, you’re an anthropomorphic top hat riding the railroad, sure, but in the latter? You’re a whale on a skateboard, ruthlessly trying to wrest the city’s porcelain doll markets with a deer, a painted snail, and a Lucky Cat.
To be fair, this isn’t the stock Japanese version of Monopoly. Instead, it’s a limited edition “Traditional Japanese Arts & Crafts Edition.” Only 5,000 copies are being released to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten, a brand that promoted traditional arts and creates and operates several retail stores in Japan.
That’s probably why this version of Monopoly feels like a Miyazaki film. Everything in it is inspired by the Japanese arts. So, as Spoon & Tamago explains:
Instead of Atlantic Avenue you’ll own a Daruma doll business. Instead of Illinois Avenue you’ll own the Nanbu Ironware craft of making teapots. Instead of the railroads you’ll control Hato-guruma (Dove Cart), an enduring folk art made of a woven two-wheeled bird. By collecting these handmade toys, you’ll discover that they originated in Nagano and are associated with industrious effort because they appealingly depict they way a dove pecks at food while walking.
There are other fascinating updates. For example, instead of Community Chest cards, you have cards named after Marco Polo’s moniker for Japan, Zipanugu cards (“Your kutani porcelain exhibit was a success. Collect 150E!”). Instead of Chance cards, you apparently have Future Cards (“You have gained an apprentice! Advance to Go!”). The middle of the board features a pattern of interlocking diamonds that is found on traditional textiles, with pieces missing that represent the islands of Japan.
After once nearly ruining our marriage over an ill-advised game of Monopoly, my wife and I have sworn off ever owning another set. But if we did, this would be the one we’d buy. It’s available for sale here for around $46.