What is Hanafuda?
A Staple of playing card history
Hanafuda, Hana- Flower and Fuda- Cards. In ancient Japan, card games were played almost exclusively by nobility, for non-gambling purposes. In 1549 Portuguese playing cards were introduced and became extremely popular. However, in 1633 foreign cards and gambling were banned during Japan's isolation from the Western world. During this ban, new cards were being made and became more illustrative and and complex in an attempt to avoid being banned. These initial cards were less popular as the decks were larger and the games harder to learn. However, around 1765-1788 a new game was developed that returned the deck to the Portuguese size of 48 cards/ The deck was divided into 12 suits of 4 cards and became the base of many games. It was ultimately banned in 1791. Eventually laws were relaxed, and Hanafuda was created and became popular. In 1889 Fusajiro Yamauchi created a company to specifically produce and market Hanafuda cards.
He called his company 'The Nintendo Playing Card Company', Though today we know it simply as 'Nintendo'
The Design of a Hanafuda deck
Hanafuda are broken into 12 suits, one for each month. Each suit is represented by 4 cards and a flora. They are then further broken down by point cards which are Poetry ribbons, Animals and Brights. Original Hanafuda were hand painted on bark. Then mass produced on a chipboard and printed. The small size originated from being able to conceal them, but over time became a nostalgic aesthetic attached to the cards. There is a generic point value for each Hanafuda card, however each game has it's own scoring.
Matsu 松 (Pine)
Contains two Matsu Dregs (1pt each), a Poetry Ribbon card (5pts) and A Bright card featuring a Japanese Red Crested Crane (20pts)
Ume 梅 (Plum Blossom)
Contains two Ume Dregs (1pt each), a Poetry Ribbon (5pts) and an animal card, the Bushwarbler (10pts)
Sakura 桜 (Cherry Blossom)
Contains two Sakura Dregs (1pt each), a Poetry Ribbon (5pts) and an Bright card, the Camp Curtain(20pts)
Fuji 藤 (Wisteria)
Contains two Fuji Dregs (1pt each), a Red Ribbon (5pts) and an Animal card, the Cuckoo(10pts)
Ayame 菖蒲 (Iris)
Contains two Ayame Dregs (1pt each), a Red Ribbon (5pts) and an "Animal/Special" card, the 8-Planked Bridge(10pts)
Botan 牡丹 (Peony)
Contains two Botan Dregs (1pt each), a Blue Ribbon (5pts) and an "Animal" card, the Butterflies(10pts)
Hagi 萩 (Bush Clover)
Contains two Hagi Dregs (1pt each), a Red Ribbon (5pts) and an "Animal" card, the Boar(10pts)
Susuki 薄 (Silver Grass/Pampas Grass)
Contains two Susuki Dregs (1pt each), an "Animal" card, the Geese(10pts)and an Bright card, the Moon(20pts)
Kiku 菊 (Chrysanthemum)
Contains two Kiku Dregs (1pt each), a Blue Ribbon (5pts) and an "Animal/Special" card, the Sake Cup(10pts)
Momiji 紅葉 (Maple)
Contains two Momiji Dregs (1pt each), a Blue Ribbon (5pts) and an "Animal" card, the Deer(10pts)
Yanagi 柳 (Willow)
Contains a Yanagi Dreg (The Lightning Card) (1pt), one "Animal/Special" card, The Swallow, a Red Ribbon (5pts), and a Bright, Ono no Michikaze (The Rainman) (20pts).
Kiri 桐 (Paulownia)
Contains three Kiri Dregs (1pt each) and one Bright card, the Chinese Phoenix (20pts)
Open for exploration
In 2010, Kelsey Cretcher's first deck was one of the first re-illustrations of Hanafuda. Prior to it, the original illustrations remained the same and only edited slightly. The concept of the traditional Hanafuda is open to so much exploration. One day there could be as many variety of Hanafuda as there are western playing cards. It's an amazing challenge and study for any Illustrator.