How to play Azumanga Donjara Daioh

I tried translating the instruction manual for this PS1 game, since there isn’t much information about it on the Internet. I don’t actually know much Japanese though, so it’s just patched together from machine translations and experimentation with the game’s behavior.

The game “Donjara” is an actual Japanese board game for kids, originally released in the 1970s with the name “Ponjan”. Bandai had the idea to put popular characters like Doraemon on the tiles, instead of the original car/ship/airplane suits.

It’s not a coincidence that the tiles look like mahjong tiles – the gameplay is a heavily simplified version of Riichi mahjong. Although the tile markings don’t correspond at all, a Riichi beginner playing Donjara can get the feeling of looking for patterns, watching discards, and shaping a winning hand. You can also see that tile calls are not essential to the game of mahjong: a game like Donjara with only closed hands is still interesting, albeit much simpler.

(In fact, when teaching Riichi to a complete newbie, some people recommend ignoring the yaku list at first and only going for the riichi or menzen-tsumo hands. Playing that way is very similar to playing Donjara.)




Choose a player character and companion character, then play Donjara against 5 opponents. Defeat all 5 to unlock images and additional characters.

Free match

Choose a player character, companion character, and opponent to play a single match of 5 rounds.


View the images you unlocked in story mode.


Game screen

  1. Player’s last discard
  2. Opponent’s last discard
  3. Player
  4. Opponent
  5. “Polygon character” (companion character or player character)
  6. Cursor

Companion character

In addition to the player character, another character will join you as a companion. Press the R1 button to switch the “polygon character” between the player and the companion. The companion character also gives you another option when choosing to use Sneaky Abilities.

How to play Donjara

In Donjara, the player and CPU take turns drawing and discarding tiles to form matching sets. You start with 300 points, which decrease each time your opponent wins a hand, and you lose if you get to 0 points. After 5 rounds, whoever has the most points wins.

Both players start by rolling a die. Whoever rolls the highest number is the starting player. Each player gets a hand of 8 tiles.

After you draw your starting hand, but before the round starts, you have a chance to select a Sneaky Ability (ずるっこ.)

When it’s your turn, draw one tile and discard one. The goal is to form 3 sets of 3 matching tiles.

When you’re one tile away from a winning hand, the Riichi (リーチ) window appears. After you call Riichi, your hand is locked in, and you will discard automatically until you get the winning tile. (The benefit of calling Riichi is you can take the winning tile from your opponent’s discard, too!) When the winning tile appears, the game prompts you to call Donjara (ドンジャラ.)

If you run out of tiles, it’s a tie (ひきわけ) and the starting player alternates. Otherwise, the winner goes first in the next round.


Yukari Kurosawa Chiyo Sakaki Yomi Tomo Osaka Kagura Kaorin

There are 81 character tiles. Each of these 9 characters has tiles numbered 1-9.

There is also one joker tile (Chiyo’s father), which can take the place of any other tile.


The basic 3 sets of 3 that you need to win are worth 15 points (shown as 基本点, “basic points”, on the scoring screen.) Some tiles are worth additional points:

= +3 points   = +2 points   = +10 points

Alternatively if you get one of the special winning hands, it’s worth the points indicated in the table, and the individual tile bonuses are ignored. Multiple special hands can be scored at the same time, and their points are added.

Special hands

(You can check this list during gameplay by selecting 上がり手一覧 from the pause menu.)

Name Tiles Points
Daioh 大王 All 9 tiles of the same character 300
All together A 全員集合A One of each character, all the same number 280
All together B 全員集合B One of each character (any numbers) 30
Scary drive 恐怖のドライブ Yukari, Chiyo, and Osaka 150
Radio exercises ラジオ体操 Kurosawa, Chiyo, and Sakaki 130
High achievers 成績優秀 Chiyo, Sakaki, and Yomi 120
Boneheads ボンクラーズ Tomo, Osaka, and Kagura 103
Double ダブル 6 tiles of the same character 70
Same color おんなじいろ All tiles are the same color 40
Teachers 先生 Yukari and Kurosawa 40
Swim team 水球部 Kurosawa and Kagura 40
Childhood friends 幼馴染 Yomi and Tomo 40
Sea cucumber なまこ Yomi and Osaka 40
Kimura’s favorites 木村ごのみ Kagura and Kaorin 30
Gifted athletes スポーツ万能 Sakaki and Kagura 30
Folk dance フォークダンス Sakaki and Kaorin 30

Sneaky Abilities

Sneaky Abilities are a way to get the game going in your favor. Before each round, you can choose to spend some of your points to activate the ability of your player or companion character. The ability will then be used automatically if its conditions are met.

The following is a list of every ability, including unlockable characters. These aren’t in the manual; they’re normally displayed at the bottom of the character select and Sneaky Abilities screens.

Character Ability Points
Chiyo ちよ +100 points if Chiyo’s father is in your winning hand -30
Sakaki Always get Chiyo’s father as your first drawn tile -40
Yomi よみ +10 points for every tile you discard after calling Riichi -20
Tomo とも Higher chance of winning in the next turn after calling Riichi -20
Osaka 大阪 +100 points for any winning hand, even if it’s the CPU’s -50
Kagura 神楽 +50 points for winning with the “Swim team” hand -20
Kaorin かおりん +10 points for each Sakaki tile in your hand -10
Yukari ゆかり Opponent’s win doesn’t count (only once per match) -20
Kurosawa 黒沢 Your hand scores triple, if you have less than 50 points left -10
Kimura 木村先生 +10 points for each Kaorin or Kagura tile in your hand -30
Tadakichi 忠吉 +50 points for a basic hand -10
Father お父さん Half points for any winning hand (yours or CPU’s) -10