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Published on 04.27.2016
Hanafuda is a card game that originated in Japan in the 16th century. It was banned during the Edo era, but people were allowed to play it from the Meiji era.
Hanafuda literally means flower cards and it consists of 12 suits signifying the nature of each month, such as flowers, birds, and so on. They are beautifully illustrated, so it’ll be a lovely souvenir even if you don’t know the rules.
January: pine trees, special card with a crane
February: plum trees, special card with a Japanese nightingale
March: cherry blossoms, special card with a curtain
April: wisterias, special card with a Japanese cuckoo bird
May: irises, special card with a Japanese bridge
Jun: peonies, special card with a butterfly
July: bush clovers, special card with a wild boar
August: Japanese silver grasses, special card 1 with the moon, 2 with a wild goose
September: chrysanthemums, special card with a sake cup
October: Autumn colours, special card with a deer
November: willow, special card 1 Onono Michikage (a calligrapher), 2 a swallow
December: paulownia, special card with phoenix
Each suit consists of 4 cards which include 1 special card (50points) and 1 card with a label tag (10points). In general, the player who collects more points will win. Note that some combinations of cards get special points.
How to play hanafuda
You need 2 players.
1. Each player pick a card and a player who picks the earlier month in the year will become ‘Oya’ (a dealer).
2. Distribute 8 cards for each player facing back and 8 for ‘Ba’ (the table) facing front. Place the rest of the cards in a pile on the table with the backs facing. Each player check their cards. (Don’t let your opponent see your cards!)
3. ‘Oya’ place one of their cards facing front at ‘Ba’. If there is a matching month card, they are allowed to have both that card and pick up the top of the piled cards and, again, if there is a match, they can keep both. If there is no match, they’ll lose the card, and the other player starts to play.
4. Repeat process 3 until one of the players have no more cards to play.
How to count
Add up all the special cards’ points and points for the special combinations below.
Seven lights 600points: a crane, a curtain, the moon, a phoenix (the game is over when one of the players gets this combination.)
Seven labels 600points: Any seven cards with labels (the game is over when one of the players gets this combination.)
Gun 300points: a curtain, the moon, a sake cup
Drink for cherry blossoms 100points: a curtain and a sake cup
Drink for the moon 100points: the moon and a sake cup
Inoshikacho 300points: a wild boar, a deer, a butterfly
Oozan (big 3) 150points: a crane, a Japanese nightingale, a curtain
Kozan (small 3) 100points: Pine trees, plum trees, cherry blossoms with red label tag
Aotan (blue labels) 150points: 3 blue labels
Akatan (red labels) 150points: 3 red labels
Nizoro 200points: all 4 willow cards
Hanafuda and Nintendo
Little known nowadays is the fact that Nintendo was established in 1889 as a small maker of Hanafuda. Soon after, their handmade cards became popular. In 1953, Nintendo became the first company to make plastic playing cards in Japan. The business is, however, limited since cards are regarded as a tool of gambling in Japan. It was when Nintendo gained a licence to use Disney characters for their cards their modern success came. Disney cards were big hits for the campany and Nintendo found their way out from the traditional card maker to a toy maker for families with children. It subsequently lead to the huge success of their video game in the 1980's.