Playing board games in Japan with no Japanese!?


Do you live in, or are you currently visiting, Japan? Do you have a burning passion or a passing interest (or anything in between) in board games? Whether you are a seasoned board game cafe expert or are thinking of trying one out for the first time, you might encounter the same problem if you don't speak Japanese: the language barrier.

Despite all our cafes being accessible to everyone, the games themselves are mostly printed in Japanese. We want JELLY JELLY CAFEs to be the best place anyone can play board games, so we’ve been working on a solution.


Before we get to that solution however, we want to take a moment to tell you about our events page on Meetup. You will find a variety of events for our cafes, where Japanese proficiency is not required! If you would like to meet some new people while playing board games, please feel free to check out the link below:

Meetup Events

Now, onto the aforementioned solution!

Language Independent Game Database

We’ve had a database for all our board games, their details, and where you can play them since the cafes started. But we have now added an additional tag that should make it far easier to find games to play if you don’t speak Japanese. With the new “Language Independent” tag, filter through games with no necessary in-game text at all! Once everyone at the table understands the rules, you’ll be able to play the game without any reliance on text. 

Sounds good? Let’s take a look at how to do this!

Games List

You can access our games database from the link above. Let’s go through all the Japanese options to help you find a game to play!

Note: Most modern browsers include an auto-translate function. Though this functionality doesn’t work on drop-down functions, it’ll be able to translate the search criteria to help you get started. You can usually find this within the options menu of your browser when a page is displaying text in a language different from your computer’s. 

  • 1. Play time

Narrow down a game by how long it takes to play. 

  1. 2. Player Number

Search for games with a specific player count. 

  1. 3. Game Difficulty

Display only games of a certain difficulty. The difficulty ranges from one star (easiest) to three stars (most difficult). The difficulty relates solely to the complexity of the rules.

  1. 4. Cafe Location

If you know ahead of time which cafe you’ll be visiting, select it from the list to only display games that cafe has in stock.

  1. 5. Tag

Here you can find a list of tags, genres, and mechanics for each game. Scroll down until you see “Language Independent” (it’s the only one in English!) and select it. You will only be shown games that display no gameplay relevant information in text.

  1. 6. Keywords/Title

While you can enter optional keywords, the text entry expects Japanese text. If you know the Japanese name of the game you want to play, enter it here. 

Click the search button to display results matching the filters you set up. Each game will display the JELLY JELLY CAFE locations where you can find this game below the listed tags (if you’re not using the location filter as part of your search): 

OK Great! I have a list of language independent games! Now what??

Learning the rules

Well, you still need to know the rules to play, right? Luckily, most games have their rulebooks online these days. Google (or your search engine of choice) is your best friend here. Try searching for terms such as “game name rulebook” or “game name board game rules”. 

The two most common places you will find a rulebook are:

  • The publisher’s page for this game
  • The BoardGameGeek Files section for this game


Both of these are trustworthy sources to download a pdf from. 

Now I have the rules, the game, the location… How do I reserve a table?

Reserving a table

You can reserve a table for a JELLY JELLY CAFE using our online reservation tool. Select your store location, fill out your information, and book for whatever time suits you best. The reservation tool is only available in Japanese, so let’s walk you through the process now. 

Note: You need to book at least 24 hours in advance; otherwise, you have to book via phone (Japanese only).

Online Reservation Tool

From the page above, select the store you’d like to reserve a table at. Note that some cities have multiple cafes, so please make sure you’re booking the correct one. 

You can find the pricing information for all cafes reflected below. Note that all pricing includes one drink.

Weekday Pricing

Day Time (1:00 PM-6:00 PM)


Night Time (6:00 PM–11:00 PM)


All Day(1:00 PM–11:00 PM)



Weekend, Holiday, High Season Pricing

Day Time (1:00 PM-6:00 PM)


Night Time (6:00 PM–11:00 PM)


All Day(1:00 PM–11:00 PM)


Student Pricing

Day Time

The Day Time weekday fee is reduced to ¥1,200 when presenting a valid student ID card. This fee still includes a free drink.


For an overview of all the rules and information on using JELLY JELLY CAFEs, you can head to our English "About" page:

The cafe you select will display all of it's pricing information and rules. At the bottom of the page, tick the box to confirm the rules, and press the green button to proceed.

On the following page, enter the required booking details:

  1. 1. Number of people

How many people will come to the cafe?

  1. 2. Date

This is the date on which you would like to come to the cafe.

  1. 3. Entry Time

This is the time that you would like to enter the cafe. 

Once the above three fields are filled out, you will be asked to select a course for your visit. This will dictate the duration of your visit and the price. 

The left drop-down is for your course selection. Please note that the available courses vary between cafes. 

Note: If you see “NG” next to the name of a course, this means “No Good”. For instance, 相席 (NG) means that sharing a table is no good - choosing this would indicate that you do not want to share a table. 

Course Types

This is the day time course. Your table will be available from 13:00 to 18:00.

デイタイム 相席
This is the day time-table sharing course. The table sharing courses are explained below.

This is the all day course. Your table will be available from 13:00 to 23:00.

This is the all day table-sharing course. The table sharing courses are explained below. 

This is the night time course. Your table will be available from 18:00 to 23:00.

ナイトタイム 相席
This is the night time table-sharing course. The table sharing courses are explained below.

This is the student-early-in course. This course is available on weekdays and is for students only. Your table will be available from 16:00.

This is the table-sharing student-early-in course. The table sharing courses are explained below. 

相席 Courses - Table-sharing courses

Table sharing courses are an option if you want to play board games with more people than are in your party. For example, if there’s 2 of you but you really want to play a 4 player game, you can select the table sharing course. Others are then able to join your table for the duration of the course. 
*Selecting this option does not guarantee you will share a table with others. 

Please be sure to select the appropriate course considering your starting time, as your table will only be available within the time slot of that course. 

Once your table details are entered and confirmed with the green button, you will be taken to the personal information page. This is where you need to enter your personal details before finalising the booking. 

  1. 1. Family Name (Kanji)

Although this asks for your family name in Kanji, you’re able to use the alphabet.

  1. 2. First Name (Kanji)

Much like the family name, you can also enter your first name using the alphabet.

  1. 3. Family Name (Kana)

Enter your family name here in Katakana (if you’re able to). Otherwise, the alphabet will also work.

  1. 4. First Name (Kana)

Same as the Family Name (Kana) above.

  1. 5. Phone Number

Please enter the phone number of the person who booked the reservation.

  1. 6. E-mail address

Please enter the email address of the person who booked the reservation. 

Once you’re sure you’ve entered all the information correctly, you can optionally tick the box to save this information for next time and click the green button to proceed to the confirmation screen. Your booking is not yet finished!

If all the information looks correct on the following summary screen, decide whether you would like to receive promotional information from JELLY JELLY and associated partners:

Note: Ticking this box is not a requirement to complete the reservation process.

Finally, tick the box related to your personal data processing and click the green button to complete the reservation process. 

You will receive an email containing the details of your reservation. With that, your booking process is complete!

What if I really liked the board game?

We’re happy to hear that you found a game you really enjoyed. Naturally, we invite you to come back and play it again! However, if you’d like to be able to play the game at home (or anywhere else), you can also purchase it from us directly.

Please feel free to visit our physical store located in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. You’ll find a large assortment of board games, including a section dedicated to Japanese games with English rules!

JELLY JELLY Ikebukuro Store

If you’re able to shop online, and would prefer to browse for board games in this way, check out our Online Store, where you can order games directly to your home, or for pick up from the Ikebukuro store. Note that the Online Store is currently only available in Japanese.

JELLY JELLY Ikebukuro Store

Finally, our JELLY JELLY CAFE locations stock some games that you can purchase directly at the cafe. Please ask the store staff for what games you can purchase. JELLY JELLY CAFE customers receive 10% off on all their purchases!

We look forward to seeing you at JELLY JELLY CAFE and hope you enjoy your time playing board games.