Kids Web Japan

Have Fun While Training Your Brain with Puzzle Games from Japan

(Photo courtesy of and © Gakken)

Do you like playing with toys? There are many educational toys in Japan that let you have fun while you learn or build your thinking skills. In recent years, there has been a particularly large increase in popularity among Japanese kids for puzzle games that help build logical thinking, concentration, and other skills in a fun way. Let’s take a look at some of the latest puzzle games that are all the rage in Japan.

The Evolution of Japan’s Educational Toys

Japan has educational toys that you play with by putting together pieces of different shapes and colors, like traditional blocks. These toys are popular with kids. As you play, you might think about what might happen if you put a certain shape in one place, or you might decide to stack the pieces to look like a house. As you play, you naturally build your skills for thinking and expressing yourself. With this objective, educational toys have become more varied every year, with many different ways to play them. In particular, Japanese puzzle games are evolving with many new features, and they are a hit with many kids. These games let you combine things together in a fun way.

Okay then, let’s take a look at some of the puzzle games that have been popular with kids recently in Japan.

Japan’s Puzzle Games Are a Hit Way to Build Logical Thinking and Concentration

Left: A kid using angled mirrors to reflect light onto a goal piece. The goal pieces in this game are light blue on color and have different shapes. The one here in the picture is an alien with light on it.
Right: An example with a high-difficulty challenge sheet. Here, three mirrors are used to reflect the light onto the goal piece. (Photos courtesy of and © Miyamoto Mathematics Classroom’s KenKen Logic Puzzle; Gakken)

Let’s take a look at a puzzle game where you reflect light using mirrors. This game was developed by a Japanese math teacher together with a company. You clear each challenge by reflecting the light from the big rocket to a goal piece. You need to predict where the light will be reflected as you think about the positions of the pieces, so you need to use your head. The game is difficult, but fun at the same time.

Let’s take a look at how to play the game. First, you choose a challenge sheet that you want to try, and then you put it into the board.
Each challenge sheet has marks for red and blue aliens, rockets, astronauts, UFOs, and other things. The game has goal pieces with the same shapes as the marks on the sheet. You need to shine the light onto one of these goal pieces.

Left: The board with a challenge sheet placed in it. Right: The center of the board.

Next, take goal pieces with the same shape as the blue marks on the challenge sheet, and place them on the board. For example, if the sheet has an alien mark, you should put an alien goal piece on the edge of the board next to the mark.

Once you have done this, you need to place mirror pieces inside the square border at the center of the board. When you do this, it is important to think about the direction that the mirrors should face, so that you can reflect the light onto the goal piece.

Once you have decided how to place the mirrors, it is time to bring out the tall rocket-shaped light. For this example, we will aim for the alien goal piece. Will the light shine on the alien?
Yes, it did! The light bounced off of two mirrors and hit the alien goal piece! In this way, we check if we got the solution right by trying to shine the light onto the different goal pieces.

This game gives a strong feeling of achievement when the light hits the goal piece. It also fills you with motivation to take on even harder challenges.

Another puzzle game was created with inspiration from the laboratory of the famous Japanese scientist Hideyo Noguchi.

The packaging for this puzzle game has a picture of the Japanese scientist Hideyo Noguchi. (Photos courtesy of and © 2024 Hanayama Co., Ltd.)

In this game, you need to complete missions by moving balls between different test tubes. You need to think several steps ahead about how to move these balls if you want to solve the challenges. There are also some challenges that you can take on head-to-head with your family or friends.

Let’s take a look at a simple challenge. First, you put the balls into the test tubes to match the picture on the challenge sheet. The mission is to split the balls up by color using as few moves as possible.

First, we’ll move the balls from the test tube in the middle to the test tube on the right. What would you do next to split up the colors in a small number of moves?

Let’s try moving the top ball from the right test tube to the left test tube without dropping any of the balls. It was a success!

As you move from simple challenges to more difficult ones, there will be missions using numbers that you need to think even harder about. Because of this, some people who don’t usually like sitting down for long periods of time can still get absorbed in this game and enjoy its nice appearance as they solve it like a puzzle.

Another kind of puzzle game involves putting together pieces while you think about the routes for balls in three dimensions.

A kid arranging pieces while thinking about how the balls will move when they roll down. (Photo courtesy of spoon / KUMON PUBLISHING)

Top left: This board is the starting position for the balls.
Bottom left: The goals have 10 different colors marked on them.
Right: This game is a mixture between a puzzle and a marble run toy. You need to think logically about the routes of the balls in three dimensions while you play. (Photos courtesy of spoon / KUMON PUBLISHING)

In this game, you arrange the pieces according to the challenge booklet, and then you use two different types of pieces while thinking about the right routes to make sure that each ball reaches the goal marked with its color. Once you have placed all the pieces, it’s time to drop the balls from their starting positions at the top. The aim is to get each ball to the goal of its color. For example, the red ball should go to the red goal, and the blue ball should go to the blue goal. If you have achieved this, then you have solved the challenge!

To think logically about the paths of the balls, you need to understand how the two types of pieces work. One type is transparent and lets balls fall straight down through it. The other type is green and makes balls crisscross diagonally. Once you have understood the basics about these two types of pieces, you can take on more complex and difficult challenges that climb taller and taller, with puzzles that reach two, three, and even four stories high.

Left: The transparent pieces let balls fall straight through them. The green pieces make balls crisscross diagonally.
Right: You can mix and match the pieces, and you can place them either horizontally or vertically. In this picture, a yellow ball was dropped into the third hole from the left in the front row, and it rolled into the second goal from the left.

Another game in the same series as this one has two-dimensional pieces. Kids who played the two-dimensional version said they wanted to try something harder because they had already completed all of the challenges for it. This three-dimensional puzzle game was created with a higher difficulty level so that these kids could enjoy playing with it.

In this way, many educational toys in Japan used to be simple in the past, but they are now evolving as they branch out into multiple types with many new ideas so that kids can have more fun and learn lots of different things. Some games have new designs, like mirrors and test tubes, and others grow into the third dimension. Puzzle games in Japan are getting even more fun all the time—why not try playing some yourself, too?