Ponjan rules & variants

Ponjan is a simplified version of Japanese mahjong for kids. It uses fewer types of tiles than regular mahjong, and winning hands consist only of triplets (no pair or runs.)

Ponjan is also known by several other names: “Pom Jongg” is written in English on the box, and other toy manufacturers have called the game “Janpon” or “Donjara” or “Jarapon”.



Ponjan is played with around 81 tiles, usually 9 copies each of 9 distinct tiles. Some versions include one or more joker tiles, which act as wildcards.

Donjara variants sometimes include different combinations of tiles (eg. 11x5 instead of 9x9.) They also sometimes have numbers on the tiles: often both a scoring-related number, and a serial (1-9) number which is not used for gameplay.

Ponjan games also generally include a felt-lined gameboard, two dice, and some point chips.

Common rules

Decide the first dealer by rolling dice.

Each player starts with some point chips (the amount varies by the specific game version.)

The goal of each hand is to gather three sets, where each set is three of a kind. Any such hand is worth a few points, but certain hands are worth more (see below, this depends on the specific game version.) Since your hand is normally 8 tiles, you’ll need to wait to draw the final tile for one of your sets.


Just like regular mahjong, start each hand by mixing the tiles around on the gameboard, and building 4 “walls” of face-down tiles. With 81 tiles, the walls should be 10 tiles wide and 2 tiles high (with 1 tile left over in the middle of the table.)

The dealer rolls 2 dice, and based on the total roll he counts that number of stacks counter-clockwise from the left end of his wall. Continuing counter-clockwise, he takes pairs of tiles from the wall and deals them to each player until everyone has 8 tiles. Finally, he takes the leftover tile in the middle as his first draw.


On your turn, draw a tile from the end of the wall. Choose a tile to discard, and place it face-up in the middle of the table. (Conventionally each player should make neat rows of discards in front of them.) Turns proceed counter-clockwise.

When your hand only needs one more tile to win, you can call “Riichi”, and indicate this by turning your discarded tile sideways. (In most versions, you also have to place an extra wager on the table.) After calling “Riichi”, you can now take your winning tile from another player, as soon as they discard it (not from their previous discards.) The downside is that your hand is “locked in” – you’re only allowed to discard the tiles you draw from now on.

(You can also draw your winning tile from the wall even if you didn’t call “Riichi” first.)

Ending the hand

Once you draw your winning tile, call “Ponjan” and reveal your hand. If you took the winning tile from the wall, you take points from all the other players. If you took the winning tile from another player’s discard, you only take points from that player. Either way, if you’re the dealer you get double points. Additionally, if other players called Riichi, the winning player takes their wagers.

If the dealer wins a hand, he remains the dealer for the next hand (extending the game by one hand.) Otherwise, the player to the dealer’s right is the next dealer.

If nobody wins and you run out of tiles, the deal also proceeds to the right and no points are exchanged.

Ending the game

The game ends if a player reaches zero points. Otherwise,

4 or 8 hands is the “minimum” because whenever the dealer wins, the game is extended by one hand.

Optional rules

It seems to be common to add house rules, making the game more similar to regular mahjong.

Ron scoring: If you win by taking another player’s discard, the discarding player pays you triple points (equivalent to what you would have received from the other players if you draw your winning tile from the wall.) Watch your opponents’ discards carefully! This rule is a bit unfair if you don’t also include the next one.

Furiten: When you call “Riichi”, you can’t take your winning tile from another player’s discard if:

If you try to call “Ponjan” on a discard in either of the above cases, you pay a 10-point penalty to all players instead of winning. You can always call “Ponjan” when you draw your winning tile from the wall.

Tenhou: If the dealer draws a winning hand on the first turn, it’s worth 200 points from everyone.

Chiihou: If a non-dealer wins on his very first draw (or with one of the first round of discards,) it’s worth 100 points from everyone, in addition to the normal score. When winning on a discard, the discarding player pays another extra 100 points.

Dora: After dealing, flip up the 3rd tile from the far end of the wall (not the end you draw from.) Any hand with this type of tile in it is worth 20/10 (dealer/non-dealer) bonus points. Don’t draw the dora tile from the wall; instead end the hand in a draw once there’s 6 tiles left.

Specific variants

Ponjan (Anoa)

This was the original Ponjan game, published in 1976. (TV ad) After Anoa went out of business, later editions of the same game were published by Clover and then by Tomy.

The 81 tiles have ships, cars, and airplanes on them, each in black, red, and blue.

Scoring in this game is very simple. There are 10 different patterns you can make with 3 sets, all scored based on how rare they are to achieve. This version also has a special “9 different tiles” hand, which breaks the usual rule of a winning hand having 3 sets.

Hand Example Dealer Non-dealer
9 different tiles 6 3
2 colors, 2 things 6 3
3 colors 10 5
3 things 10 5
Double 30 15
3 colors, 3 things 30 15
3 colors, 1 thing 60 30
1 color, 3 things 60 30
Double, 1 color 60 30
Double, 1 thing 80 40
Triple 200 100

Donjara Doraemon Perfect 20 (Bandai)

This seems to have been the first (?) Donjara game, published in 1992. It was so popular that Bandai released 6 more editions over the years, even a brand new 2023 one. There’s apparently even a tiny capsule-machine edition with 1cm tiles.

Naturally, the tiles have Doraemon characters on them:

These tiles have their point value in the upper right (1/5/10), and a serial number (1-9) in the lower left (which is only used for the “9 different tiles” hand.) To calculate basic points for a hand, add up the point values of the three sets.

In addition to basic points, there’s a short list of special hands. If you get one of these hands, its score replaces the basic points. (Although, it is possible to make a “3 colors” hand which is worth 25 basic points, so you should probably calculate the basic points for that hand just to be sure.)

Hand Example Score
3 colors 20
All the same color 50
Double 60
Double + same color 110
9 different tiles
(all the same number)
9 different tiles
(different numbers)
Triple 300

Doubutsu Janpon 7 (Hanayama)

This version from 2011 has some variety in the tiles (like Donjara) but the scoring is still very similar to the original. It also includes extra boards and plastic pawns for playing 6 other games. Scans of the box and instructions are available in this BoardGameGeek thread. For this one, I made a translated scorecard you can print.

It’s played with 81 tiles depicting various animals. The background colors indicate land animals (green), sea creatures (blue), and birds (red). The land and sea animals have 9 tiles each, and the birds have 6 tiles each.

Each player starts with 400 points. The chip colors are: red = 50, brown = 20, yellow = 10, beige = 5.

Since birds are much rarer than the other tiles, and there’s more land than sea animals, the scoring is a bit more varied than the original Ponjan:

Hand Example Dealer Non-dealer
Any 3 sets 10 5
3 sets of land animals
(any animals)
20 10
3 sets of land animals
(lion, elephant, & panda)
40 20
3 sets of sea creatures 50 25
2 sets of birds
+ 1 other set
60 30
Double land animal set
+ 1 non-bird set
90 45
Double sea creature set
+ 1 non-bird set
110 55
3 sets of birds 120 60
Double land animal set
+ 1 bird set
180 90
Double sea creature set
+ 1 bird set
200 100
Double bird set
+ 1 other set
260 130
Triple land animal set 280 140
Triple sea creature set 300 150

Other Donjara games

I haven’t researched newer ones as much, but they tend to have very different tile sets (only 5 or 6 of each tile) to accomodate more than 9 characters. For scoring, most of them have long lists of more specific character combinatons, which are themed to the licensed anime. Some have more advanced rules like tile calls, or even “special abilities” upon discarding certain marked tiles.

“Donjara NEO One Piece” fits a whopping 41 characters into 83 tiles by using only two copies of each (plus one joker.) The scoring has two layers: basic Ponjan-like scoring based on the tiles’ 5 different background colors, plus bonus points for various 3- or 4-character groupings.