Hanafuda (Japanese Card Game)

Hanafuda or Hanakaruta ("karuta", from the Portuguese word "carta") is a gambling card game. It is also called "Sakura" or "Cherry Blossom". Hanafuda was out-lawed in the Edo Era and was recovered in the Meiji Era.

It is played with a 48 card deck, divided into twelve card suits corresponding to the twelve months of the year. Each suit is shown by a different flower or plant. Each flower is representative of a calendar month around the time it comes into bloom and depict the yearly cycle using Japanese imagery.

The ume, or plum, is the first fruit tree to bloom as the winter retreats. Soon after, the the cherry (sakura) trees bloom and parties of admirers gather in the fragrant orchards, with curtains hung from the flowering boughs. Next, the wisteria vines (fuji) put out bunches of flowers. As the weather remains warm, the iris (shoubou or ayame) blossom around the ponds. Shortly after that, the peony (botan) bloom, drawing people and insects alike. With summer beginning to exert its full power, the bush clover (hagi, sometimes called "red beans") next catches the eye. Another name for this suit, aka, refers to this red colour. With the summer at full strength, the flowers are replaced by wide fields of hay, lit at night by the bright moon (tsuki). Now, with autumn not far off, the chrysanthemum, or kiku, begins to unfurl its blossoms. As leaves turn colour, the deer (shika) are a reminder of the end of the growing season. Following soon upon this is the rain (ame). (This suit shows the only person depicted in this set of cards, holding an umbrella.) Finally, the paulownia (kiri) closes the cycle. Its chief card is often called "The Chicken" though it is supposed to represent the phoenix, a reminder of renewal in the new year and cycle to come.

In addition to flowers the cards also depict animals, birds, insects, a person (with an umbrella) and objects like tazaku and a sake cup. Each of the 48 cards has different points and names.

There are 3 types of cards:

  • Cards depicting animals or figures; 10 or 20 points.
  • Cards depicting a tanzaku (A strip of paper with a poem) separated into 3 styles - Red strip with poem, Normal red strip and Normal blue strip. All are 5 points.
  • Cards depicting plants with no other objects, called "Kasu" or "Trash" cards; 1 point.

If you would like more details about the points of the various cards go to The Twelve Suits of the Hanafuda Card Deck. If not, read on for more general information about how to play the game.

Ten cards are dealt to each player, and eight more are dealt face-up in the center of the table. If three or four cards of the same suit are dealt face-up on the table, then the hands are re-dealt. The player who is to go first is determined randomly.

Each turn consists of the player trying to match a card from his hand with a card on the table, by suits. If the player chooses to match a pair, then he captures the cards and they go into her matched pile. The player gains any associated points due to the match. If the player chooses not to match any cards, she still has to lay a card down on the table. Once the player has finished card selection, another card is dealt, if this matches any on the table the player captures those cards also. If the dealt card cannot be matched with the table cards then it is placed on the table.

Play now moves onto the next player, and this procedure is repeated. The game is over when all cards have been matched, and the scores have been calculated. In addition to the suits which yield bonus points upon completion, there are a number of bonus scoring melds in hanafuda. Matching and capturing these hold the key to winning at Hanafuda. These are:

  • Akai Tan (collecting the three red tanzaku banners with hirigana) is 30 bonus points
  • Aoi Tan (collecting the three blue tanzaku blank banners)is 30 bonus points
  • Go Myo (collecting the five cards worth 20 points each) is 50 bonus points.

Not suprisingly, the winner is the player with the highest score.

There is also one card included that has a blank, white face. This card is not used in the game of Hanafuda or Sakura. In some of the more complicated types of games which use the same deck, six players are needed and all 49 cards are dealt out. The player who gets the white card has to sit out the round. The cards are then reshuffled and dealt out to the remaining five players. Again, the player with the white card is out of the round. Now the blank card is removed from the deck and the game proceeds with only four players.


The Twelve Suits of the Hanafuda Card Deck

JANUARY - MATSU (PINE)
Matsu Ni Tsuru (A Crane and Pine) , 20 points
Matsu No Tan (A Poem Strip with Pine) , 5 points
Matsu No Kasu (Trash of Pine), 1 point
Matsu No Kasu (Trash of Pine), 1 point

FEBRUARY - UME (PLUM)
Ume Ni Uguisu (A Nightingale and Plum), 10 points
Ume No Tan (A Poem Strip with Plum), 5 points
Ume No Kasu (Trash of Plum), 1 point
Ume No Kasu (Trash of Plum), 1 point

MARCH - SAKURA (FLOWERING CHERRY)
Sakura Ni Maku (A Curtain and Cherry Blossoms), 20 points
Sakura No Tan (A Poem Strip with Cherry Blossoms), 5 points
Sakura No Kasu (Trash of Cherry Blossoms), 1 point
Sakura No Kasu (Trash of Cherry Blossoms), 1 point

APRIL - FUJI (WISTERIA)
Fuji Ni Kakko (A Cuckoo and Wisteria), 10 points
Fuji No Tan (A Poem Strip with Wisteria), 5 points
Fuji No Kasu (Trash of Wisteria), 1 point
Fuji No Kasu (Trash of Wisteria), 1 point

MAY - SHOUBU (IRIS)
Shoubu Ni Yatsuhashi (An Eight-board Bridge and Iris), 10 points
Shoubu No Tan (A Poem Strip with Iris), 5 points
Shoubu No Kasu (Trash of Iris), 1 point
Shoubu No Kasu (Trash of Iris), 1 point

JUNE - BOTAN (PEONY)
Botan Ni Chou (Butterfies and Peony), 10 points
Botan No Tan (A Poem Strip with Peony), 5 points
Botan No Kasu (Trash of Peony), 1 point
Botan No Kasu (Trash of Peony), 1 point

JULY - HAGI (BUSH CLOVER)
Hagi Ni Inoshishi (A Wid Boar and Bush Clover), 10 points
Hagi No Tan (A Poem Strip with Bush Clover), 5 points
Hagi No Kasu (Trash of Bush Clover), 1 point
Hagi No Kasu (Trash of Bush Clover), 1 point

AUGUST - SUSUKI (PAMPASS GRASS)
Susuki Ni Tsuki (The Moon and Pampass Grass), 20 points
Susuki Ni Kari (Wild Geese and Pampass Grass), 10 points
Susuki No Kasu (Trash of Pampass Grass), 1 point
Susuki No Kasu (Trash of Pampass Grass), 1 point

SEPTEMBER - KIKU (CRYSANTHEMUM)
Kiku Ni Sakazuki (A Sake Cup and Crysanthemum), 10 points
Kiku No Tan (A Poem Stip with Crysanthemum), 5 points
Kiku No Kasu (Trash of Crysanthemum), 1 point
Kiku No Kasu (Trash of Crysanthemum), 1 point

OCTOBER - MOMIJI (MAPLE)
Momiji Ni Shika (A Deer and Maple), 10 points
Momiji No Tan (A Poem Stip with Maple), 5 points
Momiji No Kasu (Trash of Maple), 1 point
Momiji No Kasu (Trash of Maple), 1 point

NOVEMBER - YANAGI (WILLOW)
Yanagi Ni Ono No Toufuu (Ono No Toufuu and Willow), 20 points
Yanagi Ni Tsubame (A Swallow and Willow), 10 points
Yanagi No Tan (A Poem Strip with Willow), 5 points
Yanagi No Kasu (Trash of Willow), 1 point

DECEMBER - KIRI (PAULOWNIA)
Kiri Ni Hooh (The Phoenix and Paulownia) , 20 points
Kiri No Kasu (Trash of Paulownia), 1 point
Kiri No Kasu (Trash of Paulownia), 1 point
Kiri No Kasu (Trash of Paulownia), 1 point

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.