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Hanafuda (花札 ?)
Koi Koi
The start of a game of Koi Koi
Players 2–6
Age range 8 and up
Setup time 2 minutes
Playing time 10–180 minutes
Random chance Medium
Skills required Probabilistic analysis
Strategic thought

Hanafuda (花札 ?) are playing cards of Japanese origin (karuta cards), used to play a number of games. The name literally translates as 'flower cards'.[1]


[edit] History

Though refined card games were played in Japan by the nobility since its early years, they were not commonly used for gambling, nor played by the lower classes. This changed, however, in the 18th year of Tenmon (A.D. 1549) when Francisco Xavier landed in Japan. The crew of his ship had carried a set of Hombre (48-card Portuguese) playing cards from Europe, and card games, or more specifically, gambling card games, became extremely popular with the Japanese. When Japan subsequently closed off all contact with the Western world in 1633, foreign playing cards were banned.

Despite the ban, gambling with cards remained highly popular. Private gambling during the Tokugawa Shogunate was illegal. Because playing card games per se were not banned, new cards were created with different designs to avoid the restriction. For example, an anonymous game player designed a card game known as "Unsun Karuta". These cards were decorated with Chinese art, each depicting Chinese warriors, weaponry, armor, and dragons. This deck consisted of 75 cards, and was not as popular as the Western card games had been simply because of the difficulty of becoming familiar with the system. When gambling with a particular card deck design became too popular, the government banned those cards to restrict gambling activity, which then prompted the creation of new cards. This cat and mouse game between the government and rebellious gamblers resulted in the creation of many differing designs.

Through the rest of the Edo era through the Meiwa, Anei, and Tenmei eras (roughly 1765–1788), a game called Mekuri Karuta took the place of Unsun Karuta. Consisting of a 48-card deck divided into 4 sets of 12, it became wildly popular and was one of the most common forms of gambling during this time period. In fact, it became so commonly used for gambling that it was banned in 1791, during the Kansei Era.

Over the next few decades, several new card games were developed and subsequently banned because they were used almost exclusively for gambling purposes. However, the government began to realize that some form of card games would always be played by the populace, and began to relax their laws against gambling. The eventual result of all this was a game called Hanafuda, which combined traditional Japanese games with Western-style playing cards. Because hanafuda cards do not have numbers (the main purpose is to associate images) and the long length to complete a game, it has a partially limited use for gambling. However, it is still possible to gamble by assigning points for completed image combinations.

By this point, however, card games were not nearly as popular as they had been due to past governmental repression.

In 1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo Koppai for the purposes of producing and selling hand-crafted Hanafuda cards painted on mulberry tree bark. Though it took a while to catch on, soon the Yakuza began using Hanafuda cards in their gambling parlors, and card games became popular in Japan again.

Today, Hanafuda is commonly played in Hawaii and South Korea, though under different names. In Hawaii, it is called Sakura, Higobana and sometimes Hanafura. In South Korea, the cards are called "Hwatu" (Korean: 화투, Hanja: 花鬪) and the most common game is "Go-Stop" (Korean: 고스톱) [2] or "Sutda" (Korean: 섯다). In South Korea, Hwatu is very common to be played during special holidays such as the Lunar New Years, and also during the Korean holiday of 추석(Chuseok). Playing Go-Stop during the family gatherings of the holidays have become a culture to Koreans for many years. It is also played in the former Japanese colony of Micronesia, where it is known as Hanafuda. It is a four-person game, and is often paired cross-table, though the Korean and Japanese versions are usually played with three players, with two-person variants. Despite its focus on video games, Nintendo still produces the cards, including a special edition Mario themed set for Club Nintendo, although this business is diminishing. In 2006, Nintendo published Clubhouse Games (42 All-Time Classics in the United Kingdom) for the Nintendo DS, which included Koi-Koi.

The following rules are by no means official; there are many different games played with Hanafuda, and there are as many different variations as there are players.

Now, Nintendo sells Hanafuda cards exclusively to Club Nintendo members as a reward for registering games for "coins", but now they are updated with Nintendo characters as well. These include Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and others.

[edit] Cards

There are twelve suits, representing months. Each is designated a flower, and each suit has four cards. Typically, there are two 'normal' cards worth one point, one poetry ribbon card worth five points, and a final special card worth ten or twenty points. The point values could be considered unnecessary and arbitrary, as the most popular games only concern themselves with certain combinations of taken cards.

For some purposes, the flowers are used as numerals, with pine having a value of 1, plum having a value of 2, and so forth. This enables the deck to be used for games such as Oicho-Kabu.

Month Flower Cards Images
January Matsu (松) (Pine) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Poetry Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Crane and Sun (20 points)
February Ume (梅) (Flowering Plum) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Poetry Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Bush Warbler in a Tree (10 points)
March Sakura (桜) (Flowering Cherry) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Poetry Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Camp Curtain (20 points)
April Fuji (藤) (Wisteria) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Red Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Cuckoo with Moon (10 points)
May Ayame (菖蒲) (Iris) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Red Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Water Iris and Eight-Plank Bridge (10 points)
June Botan (牡丹) (Peony) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Purple Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Butterflies (10 points)
July Hagi (萩) (Bush Clover) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Red Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Boar (10 points)
August Susuki (薄) (Chinese Silver Grass) 2 Normal (1 point), 2 Specials: Geese in Flight (10 points), Full Moon with Red Sky (20 points)
September Kiku (菊) (Chrysanthemum) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Purple Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Poetry Sake cup (10 points)
October Momiji (紅葉) (Maple) 2 Normal (1 point), 1 Purple Ribbon (5 points) and 1 Special: Deer and maple (10 points)
November Yanagi (柳)※1 (Willow) 1 Red Ribbon (5 points) and 3 Specials: Lightning (1 point), Swallow (10 points), Ono no Michikaze with Umbrella and frog (Rainman, 20 points)
December Kiri (桐)※1 (Paulownia) 3 Normal (1 point, one colored differently than the others), Special: Chinese Phoenix (20 points)

※1 : In Korea, Kiri(桐,오동) is November and Yanagi(柳,비) is December.

[edit] Card Imagery Significance

  • The January Matsu (松) (Pine) "Poetry Ribbon" card has the phrase 'akayoroshi', employing a hentaigana character for the "ka."
  • The February Ume (梅) (Flowering Plum) "Poetry Ribbon" card also has the phrase 'akayoroshi', employing the same hentaigana character for the "ka."
  • The March Sakura (桜) "Poetry Ribbon" card has the phrase 'Miyoshino', referring to Miyoshino, Nara. The town is known for its sakura blossoms
  • The September Kiku (菊) (Chrysanthemum) "Poetry" card image has the character for 'kotobuki' (the kanji 寿).
  • The November Yanagi (柳)※1 (Willow) "Rain" card image portrays Ono no Michikaze.

[edit] Rules

Object of Play: Accumulate more points than your opponent. Either a set number of rounds is played, a point goal is set to determine the winner, or players try to get so many more points than their opponent.

Rules of Play: Cards are shuffled and placed into a pile (called the stock). Eight cards are placed face up between the players, and then eight cards are dealt face-up to each player. If there are more than two players, then the hand size is decreased.

The Play: Play starts with the dealer. The player takes a card that was dealt to him and matches suit with a card that is on the table. If there isn't a matching card, the player discards a card to the center of the table. Then, the top stock card is turned face up, and if there is a matching suit on the playing field, the player takes the cards, otherwise the stock card is added to the playing field.[3]

Play ends when either the stock is exhausted or either player's hand is empty.

If a player is dealt four pairs or two complete suits, that player automatically wins the round. Scoring for this instance varies, but is can be the value of the cards in the playing field.

Hiki: If there are a number of cards on the playing field of one suit, and a player has the rest of the suit in hand, this is a hiki. The player may take the entire suit of cards on his turn instead of playing a card from his hand. Trying to take a card from a hiki with the storm card is an illegal move. If the cards are dealt so that all four of one suit are on the playing field, the cards are shuffled and redealt. If three cards are on the table, they are stacked together and the remaining card takes all three.

Scoring: At the end of the round, each player adds the value of all cards he has taken. In some variations, 'winner takes all', meaning the winner of the match gets all the points the opponent has accumulated in that round. See the page 'Hanafuda Rules' for card sets and scoring.

Oya Gachi: In case of a tie, dealer wins. If the dealer isn't involved with the tie, the player closest to the dealer's left wins.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes and references

  • HANAFUDA the flower card game - Compiled by Japan Publications ISBN (in English) 0-87040-430-X

[edit] External links

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