Japan developed many different kinds of cards, in isolation from most of the rest of the world. They fall under two main categories:

  • Cards derived from Portuguese patterns, with suits and ranks. In order of appearance these are:
    • Tenshō Karuta (天正カルタ, ‘Tenshō cards’)
    • Unsun Karuta (うんすんかるた, ‘Un-Sun cards’)
    • Sunkun Karuta (すんくんかるた, ‘Sun-Kun cards’)
    • Mekuri Karuta (捲りかるた, ‘turning cards’) were an alteration of the Tenshō pattern cards, probably to evade bans on those cards. The structure of the deck remains the same, but there are many different regional artwork patterns.
    • Kabu Karuta (株かるた) were a further simplification of mekuri cards, eliminating all suits except for one, which is replicated four times. Like mekuri cards, there are many regional varieties, but kabufuda is the only one still in mass production.
  • Cards used for simpler matching games, not organized into suits or ranks:
    • Uta-garuta (歌かるた, ‘poetry cards’)
    • Iroha-garuta (いろはかるた, ‘alphabet cards’)
  • Hanafuda (花札, ‘flower cards’) are derived from a combination of both the Portuguese and the matching-type cards.