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The 8 Hanafuda Decks by Nintendo ( + 1 Kabufuda )

Every set exists in 2 colors : black & red ( ocher )

From top to bottom :

  • Daitoryo ( Napoleon ) ( “daitoryou” means “president” in Japanese )
  • Tengu ( the Tengu is a long nose supernatural being )
  • Miyako no Hana ( ” miyako ” means ” the capital ” and “hana” means ” flower(s)” )
  • Mario
  • Kabufuda

The Miyako no Hana sets are cheaper than the others
( about 30 % cheaper, usually ) because the quality of the
paper used for the cards is not as high.
( they look and feel exactly the same though, maybe they don’t last as long … )

There is also a Kabufuda set ( at the bottom of the photo ),
in black only, the box looks almost the same as the Hanafuda
Daitoryo but for the small white pastille on the front with the 2 kanji :
kabu-fuda one above the other ( see photo ).

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Hanafuda sulphurous reputation as the game of the yakuza.

The hanafuda cards date back from the late 18 th century, before contact with the
Europeans, cards games were known to the nobility as a sophisticated pastime
but ignored by the people.
The Portuguese introduced the 48 cards hombre deck

that was soon widely used for gambling
and banned by the Shogunate, as were many following Japanese decks, in a cat and mouse
game between the authorities and the gamblers.
The hanafuda cards got no numeric values, only pictures and thus escaped an official ban but were
not specially popular until Nintendo was founded with the purpose of making hanafuda cards in 1889.
Gambling was still banned and hanafuda cards that were mainly used for this purpose gained a
strong association with the Yakuza gangs that run illegal gambling parlors.

The Yakuza have tattos based on hanafuda designs, even today, the cards are strongly
associated with the underworld and that deters many respectable Japanese from playing with them.

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Kabufuda Cards ( not to be confused with hanafuda )

Kabufuda are traditional Japanese cards derived from European cards brought to Japan by
the Portuguese in the 16th century that were quickly banned by the shogunate because they were
used mainly for gambling.
So the gamblers played a cat and mouse game with the authorities, inventing new decks that were
soon banned until hanafuda appeared in the 18th century ( hanafuda cards have no numeric values
so they escaped being banned but were ultimately used also by gamblers )
I don’t know exactly what place kabufuda have in the line of decks invented to escape the gambling
ban but they survived until today and are still manufactured, mainly by Nintendo.

Nintendo Kabufuda

A deck of kabufuda cards have 40 cards numbered from 1 to 10, not suited, so there are 4 cards for each value ( in the set made by Nintendo there is 1 extra card, a Jack, that is usually not used )

Kabufuda cards are typically used for gambling games, like Oicho-Kabu, that is similar to Baccarat,
the goal being to reach 9 points.
The worst hand in Oicho-Kabu : 8-9-3 is phonetically expressed as ya-ku-za and is the origin of
the name of the Japanese gangsters who were the ones running the gambling dens in the days.

The Nintendo set bears the image of Napoleon ( along with the two ” Daitoryo ” hanafuda decks,
black & red ).