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Hanafuda

A typical setup of hanafuda for the game of Koi-Koi, on top a red zabuton with a peony pattern.
A typical setup with hanafuda for playing Koi-Koi.

Hanafuda (花札, "flower cards") are a style of Japanese playing cards. They are typically smaller than Western playing cards, only 2+18 by 1+14 inches (5.4 by 3.2 cm), but thicker and stiffer. On the face of each card is a depiction of plants, tanzaku (短冊), animals, birds, or man-made objects. One single card depicts a human. The back side is usually plain, without a pattern or design of any kind. Hanafuda are used to play a variety of games like Koi-Koi and Hachi-Hachi.

In Korea, hanafuda are known as Hwatu (Korean: 화투, Hanja: 花鬪, "battle of flowers") and made of plastic with a textured back side. The most popular games are Go-stop (Korean: 고스톱) and Seotda (Korean: 섯다). Hwatu is very commonly played in South Korea during special holidays such as Lunar New Year and Chuseok (추석).

In Hawaii, hanafuda is used to play Sakura. Hanafuda is also played in Micronesia, where it is known as Hanahuda and is used to play a four-person game, which is often paired cross-table.

History

Playing cards were introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in the mid-16th century. The Portuguese deck consisted of 48 cards, with four suits divided into 12 ranks. The first Japanese-made decks made during the Tenshō period (1573–1592) mimicked Portuguese decks and are referred to as Tenshō Karuta. The main game was a trick-taking game intermediate in evolution between Triunfo and Ombre. After Japan closed off all contact with the Western world in 1633, foreign playing cards were banned.

In 1648, Tenshō Karuta were banned by the Tokugawa shogunate. During prohibition, gambling with cards remained highly popular which led to disguised card designs. Each time gambling with a card deck of a particular design became too popular, the government banned it, which then prompted the creation of a new design. This cat-and-mouse game between the government and rebellious gamblers resulted in the creation of increasingly abstract and minimalist regional patterns (地方札). These designs were initially called Yomi Karuta after the popular Poch-like game of Yomi which was known by the 1680s.

Through the Meiwa, An'ei, and Tenmei eras (roughly 1764–1789), a game called Mekuri took the place of Yomi. It became so popular that Yomi Karuta was renamed Mekuri Karuta. Mechanically, Mekuri is similar to Chinese fishing games. Cards became so commonly used for gambling that they were banned in 1791, during the Kansei era.

The earliest known reference to Hana Awase (a previous version of hanafuda) is from 1816 when it was recorded as a banned gambling tool. Unlike earlier decks it consists of 12 months (suits) divided into four rank-like categories. The majority of hanafuda games are descended from Mekuri although Yomi adaptations for the flower cards survived until the 20th century. Though they can still be used for gambling, its structure and design is less convenient than other decks such as Kabufuda. In the Meiji period, playing cards became tolerated by the authorities.

Marufuku Nintendo Card Company building from 1889 in Shimogyō-ku, Kyoto.
Marufuku Nintendo Card Company building from 1889 in Shimogyō-ku, Kyoto.

In 1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo for the purposes of producing and selling hand-crafted hanafuda. Nintendo has focused on video games since the 1970s but continues to produce cards in Japan, including themed sets based on Mario, Pokémon, and Kirby. The Koi-Koi game played with hanafuda is included in Nintendo's own Clubhouse Games (2006) for the Nintendo DS, and Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (2020) for the Nintendo Switch.

Hanafuda were likely introduced to Korea during the late 1890s and to Hawaii in the early 1900s.

Cards

There are 48 cards total, divided into twelve suits, representing months of the year. Each suit is designated by a flower and has four cards. An extra blank card may be included to serve as a replacement. In Korean Hwatu decks, several joker cards (조커패) award various bonuses.

Month / Suit

Flower

Hikari

(20 points)

Tane

(10 points)

Tanzaku

(5 points)

Kasu

(1 point)

January

Pine

Hanafuda January Hikari Alt.svg Crane and Sun Hanafuda January Tanzaku Alt.svg Poetry tanzaku Hanafuda January Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda January Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
February

Plum blossom

Hanafuda February Tane Alt.svg Bush warbler Hanafuda February Tanzaku Alt.svg Poetry tanzaku Hanafuda February Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda February Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
March

Cherry blossom

Hanafuda March Hikari Alt.svg Curtain Hanafuda March Tanzaku Alt.svg Poetry tanzaku Hanafuda March Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda March Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
April

Wisteria

Hanafuda April Tane Alt.svg Cuckoo Hanafuda April Tanzaku Alt.svg Plain tanzaku Hanafuda April Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda April Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
May

Iris

Hanafuda May Tane Alt.svg Eight-plank bridge Hanafuda May Tanzaku Alt.svg Plain tanzaku Hanafuda May Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda May Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
June

Peony

Hanafuda June Tane Alt.svg Butterflies Hanafuda June Tanzaku Alt.svg Blue tanzaku Hanafuda June Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda June Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
July

Bush clover

Hanafuda July Tane Alt.svg Boar Hanafuda July Tanzaku Alt.svg Plain tanzaku Hanafuda July Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda July Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
August

Susuki grass

Hanafuda August Hikari Alt.svg Full moon Hanafuda August Tane Alt.svg Geese Hanafuda August Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda August Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
September

Chrysanthemum

Hanafuda September Tane Alt.svg Sake cup Hanafuda September Tanzaku Alt.svg Blue tanzaku Hanafuda September Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda September Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
October

Maple

Hanafuda October Tane Alt.svg Deer Hanafuda October Tanzaku Alt.svg Blue tanzaku Hanafuda October Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda October Kasu 2 Alt.svg 2 cards
November

Willow

Hanafuda November Hikari Alt.svg Ono no Michikaze Hanafuda November Tane Alt.svg Swallow Hanafuda November Tanzaku Alt.svg Plain tanzaku Hanafuda November Kasu Alt.svg Lightning 1 card
December

Paulownia

Hanafuda December Hikari Alt.svg Chinese phoenix Hanafuda December Kasu 1 Alt.svg Hanafuda December Kasu 2 Alt.svg Hanafuda December Kasu Alt.svg 3 cards

※ In the Korean Hwatu version, the November and December suits are swapped.

Text significance

A few cards in hanafuda contain Japanese text. In addition to the examples below, the December kasu cards typically display the manufacturer's name and marks, similar to the Ace of spades in western playing cards.

Cards Description
January Tanzaku February Tanzaku akayoroshi (あかよろし, "red is good") with the hentaigana character 𛀙 for ka
March Tanzaku mi-Yoshino (みよしの) refers to Yoshino, Nara, known for its Somei-Yoshino hybrid cherry trees
September Tane kotobuki (寿, "long life")

Games

Mekuri-derived games:

Yomi-derived games:

  • Poka
  • Hiyoko
  • Isuri

Gabo Japgi/Kabufuda-derived games:

  • Seotda
  • Doryjytgo-ttang

See also

This page was last updated at 2022-09-13 00:16 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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