One of the regular posts I’m going to be doing in this blog is a post for each of the months. Covering the flora and fauna presented in the original cards, and then my translation into my cards. So what better way to begin than with January, the first suit of Hanafuda?
The January Hanafuda is represented by the Matsu (Japanese pine) and contains a poetry ribbon and a Japanese Red Crested crane.
Japanese pine is a little different from the western variant. While still growing very tall, these trees tend to have more gnarly expressive trunks. That tend to grow in many different varieties rather than just straight up. (Think bonsai trees!)
In addition to this, they have great and expansive branches that have clusters of pine needles. This is something I challenged myself to work with in my illustrations, as the original cards just showed a close up of the needles. I wanted to express the uniqueness of the Japanese pine’s shape.
The major feature of this suit is its Bright card, the Japanese red-crowned crane. These cranes spend the majority of their year overseas in areas like Siberia. However come winters they migrate to Japan to brave the weather there. This makes them one of the recognizable winter birds of Japan and fitting of a winter card. In addition to this, these cranes live a very long time. One known to have lived 83 years in captivity, legend claimed they have lived to be thousands of years old. This has led them to also be associated with winter and longevity as well as good luck. Because they mate for life, they are also associated with weddings and good fortune in marriage! They have beautiful mating dances that make them appear like they are dancing for joy.
Another aspect of this card, and one that I admittedly overlooked when designing the card, is the red sun on the crane card. When I first designed mine, I assumed that the sun was its color due to the limited palette of Hanafuda. However after more research I can’t help but wonder if the sun is red on purpose. Everyone knows the red sun from the Japanese flag, but not everyone knows the symbolism behind it. In Japanese mythology, Amaterasu is the sun goddess and believed to have created Japan, the Emperor of Japan is said to be a direct descendent of her. This has led the symbolism of the sun to be associated with creation, beginnings and longevity, the same symbolism as the January month. I’ve failed so far to find the reason for it being a red sun, other than the use of the red sun on the flag (which I also can’t find the reason for) so I’m not terribly disappointed in not thinking about it in my design but it’s started bugging me enough to research more.
So I guess what that means is I’m considering changing it. It’d be an easy fix but maybe not a needed one, so I’m looking for opinions. Do any of you know more than I do about the symbolism of the red sun? Do you think it matters if this deck’s sun isn’t red? I’m leaning to changing it as a nod to the Japanese flag…