Identification

The branding system of traditional Hanafuda manufacturers can be confusing. Generally the top of the container (whether a box or wrapper) will have a brand, which indicates the quality of the cards, and the type of cards is written on the front end of the container. For example, a box of Nintendō cards with Napoleon on the front indicates their highest-quality card, but it could contain either Hanafuda or Kabufuda cards.

The end of a Hanafuda wrapper with Japanese writing indicating its contents.
The end of a Nintendō wrapper indicating that it contains
standard (八々花 hachihachibana) Hanafuda cards, with black () backs.

Traditionally, decks were boxed in sets of two, usually one with black backs and the other with red backs. The outer box containing the two decks would have a wider image on the front, and then each deck inside the box would be wrapped individually. An example wrapper is shown folded flat below. The front end of the box (at bottom right) is as discussed above. The sides of the box show the manufacturer’s other brands, and sometimes awards that they have won, and the back end of the box (at top left) usually has text about the manufacturer or a list of brands.

A hanafuda wrapper folded flat, showing the top face of the box and the four sides around it.
Anatomy of a Tamura Shōgundō Hanafuda wrapper.

Manufacturer’s Marks

Within the deck, the manufacturer’s name or mark is nowadays always on one of the Paulownia junk cards, but on older decks it is can be on a Peony or Wisteria (or another card entirely).

Three cards all featuring Paulownia flowers, with maker’s marks printed upon them.
Manufacturer’s marks from Nintendō, Angel, and Maruē.

Often the mark is a simplified version of the name,Also be aware that Japanese can be written in either direction; Ostasiatische Spielkarten (136) describes a deck made by a mysterious manufacturer named ‘Dōtennin’. or a different kanji, usually combined with a geometric shape. When pronouncing the mark the shape is usually also ‘read’, so that Nintendō’s mark—a stylized (fuku ‘good fortune’) inside a circle—is read maru-fuku ‘circle-fuku’, much like the brand “Circle K”. The same can also be done with the square ( kaku), a corner at top-right (┐) can be described as a carpenter’s square ( kane), and a corner pointing upwards (∧) is called a mountain ( yama).

Index of Marks

Dating Decks

Dating old decks can be difficult. As manufacturers have not published any information about when certain brands or decks were produced, we can only go via public information. Some suggested methods are:

A blank hanafuda card with the number 120124 printed on it.
A Nintendō blank card indicating the date of manufacture (2012–01–24).
  • With recent Nintendō decks, the blank card included has a 6-digit date of manufacture printed on it. This is the only case I know where the date is explicitly marked.
  • Otherwise, the most accurate method of dating is to use tax stamps (see below), if the deck has any still present. This only works for decks produced up to 1989, when the tax on playing-cards was removed.
  • For more recent decks, barcodes can give some clues: Japanese barcodes beginning with 49⋯ have been used since 1978, but barcodes beginning with 45⋯ were introduced in 1992.
  • Japanese written in a right-to-left ordering generally indicates that the deck would have been made before the end of WWII (from here on, I use the term ‘pre-war’). Thus, 任天堂 is written 任天堂 on very old decks. However, some manufacturers such as Ōishi Tengudō or Nihon Karuta have persisted in using right-to-left ordering even into the present era.

Tax Stamps

For most of the 20th century, Hanafuda cards were taxed by the Japanese government. This tax has changed over time and thus can be used to identify the time period during which a deck was sold.

The following table is summarized from a series of articles provided by Ebashi on his website:

Tax levied on Hanafuda sets over time.
Date IntroducedTax Amount
July 1, 190220 sen
April 1, 192650 sen
April 1, 194070 sen
November 22, 1941yen
February 44, 19443 yen
August 30, 194610 yen
March 31, 194730 yen
November 30, 1947100 yen
July 7, 1948130 yen
March 28, 195150 yen
March 31, 195460 yen
June 14, 195760 yen
October 1, 196060 yen
March 31, 196240 yen
April 1, 1989abolished
A square blue stamp reading ‘50 sen’ in Japanese with a stylized chrysanthemum flower.
A square red stamp reading ‘1 yen’ in Japanese with a stylized chrysanthemum flower and elaborate border.
Late Taishō‐era tax stamps: blue 50 sen on left, red 1 yen on right.
2019 Fabrice Heilig, with permission)
A long rectangular stamp coloured pink, with elaborate border and a serial number in centre.
A long rectangular stamp coloured purple, with elaborate border and a serial number in centre.
Tax stamps of the type used from 1960 until the tax was abolished in 1989. Pink was used for Hanafuda decks and purple was used for Western style (“trump”) decks.

Current Manufacturers

All current Japanese manufacturers that I know of are based in Kyōto prefecture. The Kansai region (which contains both Kyōto and Ōsaka) is the original source of Hanafuda cards.

Nintendō (任天堂)

Nintendō is the most prominent company that produces Hanafuda cards today. The company was founded in Kyōto in 1889 by Yamauchi Fusajirō (山内 房治郎), and it was run by the Yamauchi family for three generations until Yamauchi Hiroshi (山内 溥) stepped down in 2002.

In the early days of the company, Fusajirō joined forces with the “tobacco king” Murai Kichibei (村井吉兵衛) who had founded the Murai Brothers tobacco company in 1892. Like Nintendō, who were one of the first companies to produce Western-style cards in Japan, Murai Bros. was a company that was incorporating Western elements: they were operating in conjunction with American tobacco companies, and many of their cigarette brands bore English titles. Together the two companies invested to purchase printing equipment from an American company in New York that had been taken over by the USPCC, and formed a venture called “Tōyō Printing”In some sources this is given in its translated form as the “Oriental Printing Company”. (東洋印刷).b

An image of a cigarette card with a combination Hanafuda (Wisteria) and Western (4 of clubs) on the front, and on the reverse reading “A different card in each package of cigarettes”.
An example of a combination Hanafuda card included with a packet of Murai Bros. cigarettes. Note that the clubs are printed in the “wrong” colour. (🅮)

Using this printing equipment they were able to produce high-quality collectible cards to include with cigarettes, and by 1894, one of these offerings was a single Hanafuda card included with each packet of cigarettes sold. These tobacco cards often featured a design which combined Western playing cards with the Hanafuda pattern. In 1904, the Japanese government nationalized the manufacture of all tobacco products,Kichibei was compensated massively for being pushed out of the industry and later founded a bank, among many other enterprises.c[632] and Tōyō Printing was sold along with the rest of the company.d[362]

A too-brief summary of their later success: after WWII, Nintendō managed to survive a period of crushing taxation on playing-card products, which wiped out many of the smaller manufacturers. In the second half of the 20th century they (famously!) diversified into children’s toys and, later on, video games.

A wooden storefront with wrought-iron railings and a bicycle parked outside.
The Nintendō storefront in Kyōto in 1889. (🅮)

Nintendō’s manufacturers mark is a circled (fuku, ‘fortune’). This was originally the trade-name (屋号 yagō) of the Yamauchi family.

A Hanafuda wrapper featuring an image of Napoleon on the front.
Nintendō’s Daitōryō packaging (1970s). Note the Marufuku mark at top right.
A Hanafuda wrapper featuring a red figure with a big nose, holding a fan made of feathers.
Nintendō’s Tengu packaging.

In the past Nintendō produced many varieties of local cards or Mekuri cards, but today they only produce Hanafuda and Kabufuda cards. Their current brands are: Daitōryō 大統領 (featuring a picture of Napoleon); Marufuku Tengu 丸福天狗; and Miyako no Hana 都の花 ‘flowers of the city’.

Nintendō Hanafuda brands have included:e[54]

  • 大統領 (daitōryō, a translation of ‘first consul’, Napoleon’s title from 1799–1804)
  • お多福 (otafuku, ‘moon-faced woman’)
    An actor wearing a mask of a white-faced woman with large cheeks, raised eyebrows, and a smile on her lips.
    Otafuku (also known as Okame) is a traditional character associated with good luck, and often appears in kagura performances alongside Hyottoko.
    See Tatt Yeo 🅭 🅯 🄏 ⊜)
  • 天狗 (tengu, ‘Tengu’)
  • 大将 (taishō, ‘general’)
  • 白梅 (shira ume, ‘white plum’), not in use as of 1980
  • 櫻乃山 (sakura no yama, ‘mountain cherry blossoms’), not in use as of 1980
  • 朝日桜 (asahi sakura, ‘sunrise cherry blossoms’)
  • 三羽鶴 (sanbazuru, ‘three cranes’), not in use as of 1980
  • 大天狗 (dai tengu, ‘chief Tengu’), introduced in 1977
  • 千代桜 (chiyo zakura, ‘thousand-year cherry blossoms’)
  • 春遊 (shun’yu, ‘spring outing’, especially of the Emperor)

One interesting deck they used to produce was Hana-Trump, which combined Hanafuda cards with the cards of the international standard playing card deck. Each rank of the standard pack corresponds to a month of the Hanafuda deck:

The 5 bright cards from a Hana-Trump deck, which are hanafuda cards printed on the center of the standard international playing card deck.
The 5 Brights of Nintendō’s “Hana-Trump” deck.

Because there are four more cards in the standard deck compared to the Hanafuda one, Nintendō added an additional four cards (and two jokers) to the set. These extra cards are counterparts for specialized pieces of equipment present in boxed Hachi-Hachi (八八) sets.

Four additional cards corresponding to the Kings of the standard deck, and one joker card.
The extra cards of Nintendō’s “Hana-Trump” deck. From left-to-right, after the joker, these are: a blindfolded samurai, with text reading 不見出 (88 sets have a piece labelled 不見転, ‘loose morals’); a gunbai (軍配), a military leader’s fan which is nowadays used by sumo referees, which is inscribed 跡絶之章 (88 sets have a piece labelled 両桐絶体之章); a rice winnowing basket ( mi) inscribed 手役之章 (hand-yaku prize); and an award medal reading 吟見勲賞 (Ginmi Kunshō, ‘Ginmi Medal’), which is a prize for the ‘top player’ (Ginmi, usually spelt 吟味, 88 sets have a piece labelled 銀見勲章).

Currently Nintendō also produce many novelty decks themed with their videogame characters, such as Mario (pictured below), Pokémon, Mario Pikachu (limited edition, 2016), Kirby (2020), among others.

TODO
Nintendō’s Mario deck, featuring recurring characters from the Mario series.

Nintendō have also on occasion produced decks for other companies, such as the Shikishima Hanafuda (敷島花札) produced for Okuno Karuta (奥野かるた店), a games shop in Tōkyō.

Okuno Karuta’s Shikishima Hanafuda. The cards were designed by the print artist Itō Takumi (伊藤卓美, b. 1946). They are larger than normal Hanafuda and the cards are printed on flat cardboard, not wrapped with backing paper.

Ōishi Tengudō (大石天狗堂)

Also based in Kyōto, Ōishi Tengudō produces a wide variety of traditional Japanese card games. As far as I know, they are the only major manufacturer still producing Mefuda cards. They also produce reproductions of even older cards, such as the Unsun deck.

A card with wistera showing the manufacturer’s mark.
Ōishi Tengudō’s manufacturer’s mark, on a Wisteria card from an old Narikin deck.

Their main manufacturer’s mark is with corner at top, but on some decks (e.g. Echigo-kobana), they have used in a square. Brands produced by Ōishi Tengudō in the past included:e[57–8]

  • 金天狗 (kintengu, ‘golden Tengu’), also used for Kabu and Tehonbiki cards
  • 銀天狗 (gintengu, ‘silver Tengu’), also used for Kabufuda
  • 若天狗 (wakatengu, ‘young Tengu’)
  • 三天狗 (santengu, ‘three Tengu’)
  • 成金 (narikin, ‘newly rich’, derived from a Shogi term), also used for Kabufuda
  • リンカーン (rinkān, ‘Lincoln’), no longer in use as of 1979
  • 福助 (fukusuke, a large-headed good luck doll), no longer in use as of 1979
  • 當矢 (atariya, ‘winning arrow’)
  • 四季 (shiki, ‘four seasons’)
  • 大江山 (ōeyama, a mountain near Kyōto)
  • 寳船 (takarabune, ‘treasure ship’)
    TODO
    The takarabune is a mythical ship that carries the seven lucky gods, as shown in this print by Hiroshige (c. 1840).
    (MichaelMaggs 🅮)
  • 御所車 (goshoguruma, ‘ox-drawn coach’)
  • 来福 (raifuku, ‘fortune comes’, a reference to the full yojijukugo笑門来福”, ‘fortune comes to the home of those who smile’)
  • 花津久志/花𛁫くし (hanazukushi, ‘assorted flowers’)
  • 舞楽, (bugaku, a courtly dance with music)
  • 𛀿𛀬ら, (sakura, but written with hentaigana characters)
  • 一癶, (ippatsu, ‘one shot’, e.g. baseball home run or a mahjong term)
An image of a tengu mask on a gold background.
Ōishi Tengudō’s kintengu wrapper. This is now their standard brand.
An image of a tengu mask on a silver background.
Ōishi Tengudō’s gintengu wrapper.
A Hanafuda box front featuring a large Koban coin with ‘Narikin’ (newly rich) written on it.
Ōishi Tengudō’s narikin wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a boat carrying seven people.
Ōishi Tengudō’s takarabune wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with cherry blossoms and an old street light.
Ōishi Tengudō’s sakura wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with peonies, cherry blossoms, and other flowers.
Ōishi Tengudō’s hanazukushi wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a mountain and a man gazing into the distance.
Ōishi Tengudō’s ōeyama wrapper. The man is wearing the clothing of the Shugendō sect, which Tengu are also depicted as wearing.
A hanafuda wrapper with an image of Abaraham Lincoln.
Ōishi Tengudō’s Lincoln wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with an arrow striking the centre of a target.
Ōishi Tengudō’s atariya wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper three tengu masks.
Ōishi Tengudō’s santengu wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with flowers.
Ōishi Tengudō’s shiki wrapper.

In addition to the many standard & local patterns of Hanafuda they produce, they also publish some novelty decks, such as the Kyōto Hanafuda:

Five hanafuda cards with depictions of landmarks and various aspects of Kyōto life.
The Kyōto Hanafuda’s 5 Brights, showing icons and landmarks of Kyōto. From left to right they represent: a fox with a jewel in its mouth, from the gate of the Fushimi Inari shrine (伏見稲荷大社); Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), Kita no Mandokoro (北政所), and Yodogimi (淀君) at Fushimi Castle (伏見城); the character (dai, ‘large’), which is lit on fire on mount Daimonji (大文字山) during the festival of Gozan no Okuribi (五山送り火, ‘five mountain fire’); the warrior monk Benkei (弁慶) meeting Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源義経), who is playing the flute, at Gojō bridge (五条橋); and the Kyōto Sanga (京都サンガ) football club, whose logo contains the Chinese/Japanese phoenix that is normally featured on the Paulownia bright card.

Angel (エンゼル enzeru)

The front of a Hanafuda wrapper reading ‘genroku’ in Japanese characters and with cherry blossoms.
Angel’s Genroku packaging (1970s).

Angel was originally named Okina Karuta Honpo (翁かるた本舗), and was first based in the city of Yōkaichi (now Higashiōmi), Shiga prefecture (滋賀県八日市市). It is now based in Kyōto. They still use the character (okina) as their maker’s mark, or otherwise the name Angel is written エンゼル. On some cards this is spelled 縁是留.

Angel currently produces Hanafuda and Kabufuda in two brands:

  • 千鳥 (chidori ‘numerous birds’)
  • 元禄 (Genroku, an era which spanned 1688–1704)

Other brands produced in the past included:e[45]

  • 玉将 (gyokushō, ‘king of the lesser player’, a Shōgi term)
  • (okina, ‘old man’, the name of a special ritual Noh play)
  • 泰平 (taihei, ‘tranquility’)
  • (matoi, ‘fireman’s standard’), also used for Kabufuda
  • (tabi, ‘trip’)
  • 大天龍 (daitenryū ‘great Tenryū’b)

Angel also produces cardboard novelty hanafuda for brands like Disney and Hello Kitty, and both Hyakunin Isshu and Iroha Karuta.

At one point they produced a Hana-Trump deck with similar construction to that of Nintendō’s (above).

Four additional cards corresponding to the Kings of the standard deck, and one joker card.
The extra cards of Angel’s “Hana-Trump” deck.

Tamura Shōgundō (田村将軍堂)

A small manufacturer, founded in 1921. Unlike other manufacturers, their mark is not a standard kanji-shape combination, but instead a stylized depiction of a yaguruma (矢車, ‘arrow wheel’).The yaguruma is a windmill-like device of arrows arranged in a wheel and allowed to rotate in the wind. They are associated with festivals, particularly the May 5th Tango no Sekku festival, where they are placed on top of tall poles from which koi streamers are flown.An example yaguruma symbol of seven arrows in a wheel, with the flights facing outwards.They have also published Harifuda and Shirofuda (blank cards) under the mark (circled ). They currently produce Hyakunin Isshu, Manyo Karuta, and Hanafuda.

Most of Tamura Shōgundō’s cards are produced with hand-wrapped backing paper; they have another web page that details their manufacturing process.

Tamura manufactures two types of Hanafuda cards; firstly the standard pattern, with brands (these have been maintained since the 1970s):e[39]

  • 紫宸殿 (Shishinden, the ceremonial hall of Kyōto Imperial Palace)
  • 大将軍 (daishōgun, ‘general’), also used for Kabu, Tehonbiki, Shiro (blank) cards
  • 満点 (manten, ‘perfect score’), also Kabufuda
  • 栄光 (eikō, ‘glory’), also Kabufuda
  • 京乃錦 (Kyō no nishiki, ‘brocade of Kyōto’, indicating the autumn leaves)
  • 花くらべ (hana­kurabe, ‘comparing flowers’)
  • 夜櫻 (yozakura, ‘evening cherry blossoms’)
  • 春風 (harukaze, ‘spring breeze’), also used for Kabufuda
  • 花あそび (hanaasobi, ‘flower playing’), no longer in use as of 2019
  • 世界長 (sekaichō, ‘world leader’), no longer in use as of 1980
  • 宝玉 (hōgyoku, ‘jewel’), no longer in use as of 1980
  • 将軍 (shōgun, Shogun), used for Tehonbiki only
  • 総帥 (sōsui, ‘commander-in-chief’, depicting the Duke of Wellington (ウエリントン)), no longer in use as of 1980
A hanafuda wrapper with cherry blossoms and a brazier.
Tamura Shōgundō’s yozakura wrapper. This is an outer-box wrapper designed to contain two decks.
A hanafuda wrapper with a palace on a lake.
Tamura Shōgundō’s harukaze wrapper. This is an outer-boxed wrapper designed to contain two decks; a wrapper for the individual deck can be seen above.
A hanafuda wrappper with a man in military uniform.
Tamura Shōgundō’s daishōgun wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a sunrise surrounded by wreaths.
Tamura Shōgundō’s eikō wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with flowers on a wagon.
Tamura Shōgundō’s hana­kurabe wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a bridge and overhanging maple leaves in autumn colours.
Tamura Shōgundō’s kyō no nishiki wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with 'manten' written in kanji.
Tamura Shōgundō’s manten wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a Japanese palace.
Tamura Shōgundō’s Shishinden wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a depiction of an apprentice geisha under blossoms and autumn leaves.
Tamura Shōgundō’s Kyō maiko brand.

They also print a revised pattern, Nishiki (), which is larger and has a squarer format than standard cards, and is printed with more, bolder colours. This is sold under brands:

  • 京舞妓 Kyō maiko, ‘Kyōto maiko’ (an apprentice geisha)
  • 祇園茶屋 Gion chaya, ‘Gion teahouse’ (a district of Kyōto)
  • にしき花かるた Nishiki hana karuta, ‘Nishiki flower cards’
Five hanafuda cards with very bold colours, unlike normal hanafuda cards.
The 5 Brights of the Nishiki pattern.

Extinct Manufacturers

These are producers that do not exist any more.

Matsui Tengudō (松井天狗堂)

A Japanese storefront with disintegrating sign and a pine tree growing in front.
The Matsui Tengudō store as it appeared in 2017, 7 years after shutting down.
2017 Kokoron78 🅭 🅯 🄎)

Matsui Tengudō was founded in KyōtoThere was also an Ōsaka-based Matsui Tengudō, started by the younger brother of Matsui Shigejiro, which had actually opened before the Kyōto branch. It used the same manufacturer’s mark but closed after the second generation. in 1897 by Matsui Shigejiro (松井重次郎), and was run by the Matsui family for three generations until it closed in 2010 after Matsui Shigeo (松井重夫, 1931–2016) retired.f

Matsui Tengudō was the last manufacturer to make cards entirely by hand;g Matsui Shigeo had recovered this process in 1976 as a way to distinguish his cards from those being produced by other manufacturers, after a former teacher of his told him to “make something that doesn’t exist anywhere”.h

Since closing, Matsui Tengudō decks now fetch high prices on Yahoo! Auctions, often selling for several hundred US dollars.

TODO
The 5 Bright cards from a deck produced by Matsui Shigeo to demonstrate his printing technique (1978).

Matsui’s mark was in a square, and brands included:

  • 鳳凰 (hōō, the Japanese phoenix)
  • 龍虎 (ryū ko, ‘dragon and tiger’), also used for Kabu, Tehonbiki, and Komaru cards
  • 九一 (kuppin, ‘nine and one’, the highest combination in Kabufuda games), used for Kabu cards only
  • 金龍󠄁 (kinryū, ‘gold dragon’), used for Komaru cards only
  • 菊華 (kikka, ‘chrysanthemum’)
  • 牡丹 (botan, ‘peony’)
  • 冨士櫻 (fujizakura, ‘Fuji cherry blossoms’), also used for Kabufuda
  • 三光 (sankō, ‘three brights’)
A Hanafuda wrapper with an image of a red peony on it
The botan wrapper.
A Hanafuda wrapper with a plum blossom, pine tree, and curtain with cherry blossoms printed on it.
The sankō wrapper.
A Kabufuda wrapper showing the highest (9) and lowest (1) kabu cards.
The kuppin wrapper.

Ace (エース ēsu)

Ace was a manufacturer based in Kyōto. Their brands included:e[44]

  • 大公爵 (daikōshaku, ‘grand duke’, also used for Kabufuda)
  • 大西郷 (daisaigō, ‘great Saigō’)
  • エース (ēsu, also used for Kabufuda)
  • 大提督 (daiteitoku, ‘grand admiral’, featuring a picture of Horatio Nelson)
  • 大勝利 (daishōri, ‘huge win’, featuring a picture of Tōgō Heihachirō)
  • 紅葉 (momiji, ‘autumn leaves’)
  • 源氏 (genji, ‘Genji’)

They also made two all-plastic Hanafuda decks: 金花 (kin-hana ‘gold flowers’) and 銀花 (gin-hana ‘silver flowers’).

A Hanafuda wrapper with the image of a Lord Nelson on the front.
Packaging of Ace’s Dai Teitoku brand, featuring Lord Nelson.
A Hanafuda wrapper with the image of a European nobleman on the front.
Packaging of Ace’s Dai Kōshaku brand; this is from a Kurofuda deck.
A Hanafuda wrapper with the image of a Japanese man in a double-breasted coat.
Packaging of Ace’s Dai Saigō brand.

Maruē (マルエー)

A Hanafuda wrapper with an image of cherry blossoms on the front.
Packaging for Maruē’s Goten Sakura brand (1970s).

Maruē was from the city of Mino, in Gifu prefecture (岐阜県美濃市). Their manufacturer’s mark was a circled (ē), i.e. maru-ē. However, has the meaning of ‘flower’ and can also be read with the same pronunciation as hana, making this mark very punny.

Brands produced by Maruē included:e[52]

  • 東洋一 (tōyōichi, ‘best in the East’), also used for Kabufuda
  • 金獅子 (kinjishi, ‘gold lion’), also used for Kabufuda and Tehonbiki cards
  • 金龍 (kinryū, ‘gold dragon’)
  • 銀龍 (ginryū, ‘silver dragon’), also used for Kabufuda
  • 御殿櫻 (gotensakura, ‘palace cherry blossoms’)
  • 夜櫻 (yorusakura ‘evening cherry blossoms’)
  • 梅の花 (ume no hana ‘plum flowers’)
  • 秀吉 (hideyoshi ‘Hideyoshi’)

Tanaka Gyokusuidō (田中玉水堂)/Iwata Honten (岩田本店)

Both of these companies used a mark of with corner on top.

Tanaka Gyokusuidō existed in Kyōto in 1948,i[102] but had stopped producing in the early 1960s.e[33] Their brands (including Fukusuke and Ginsuehiro) and manufacturer’s mark were taken over by Iwata Honten, who had their cards made by Tamura Shōgundō.e[48, 59] Brands included:

  • 福助 (fukusuke, a large-headed good luck doll)
  • 銀末廣/銀末広 (ginsuehiro ‘silver fan’)
  • 花扇 (hanaōgi, ‘flower fan’)
  • 金剛 (kongō, a mythical indestructible substance)
  • 横綱 (yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo)
  • 大関 (ōzeki, the second-highest sumo rank)
  • (haru, ‘spring’)
  • 小判 (koban, a type of coin)

Nihon Karuta Seizō (日本骨牌製造)/Tamada Fukushōdō (玉田福勝堂)

A box front depicting the storefront of a Japanese karuta manufacturer.
A Tamada Fukushōdō box depicting a storefront, from the collection of Lady Charlotte Schreiber, bequeathed to the British Museum in 1895. (This deck is briefly described in Catalogue of the collection of playing cards bequeathed to the Trustees of the British museum by the late Lady Charlotte Schreiber (184), under ‘Japanese #2’.)
British Museum 🅭 🅯 🄏 🄎)

The mark of both of these companies was with corner at top-right.

Nihon Karuta claimed to have been founded in 1806.h It is hard to prove this, but an earlier company named Tamada Fukushōdō that used the same manufacturer’s mark had definitely existed in Kyōto since before 1895 (see image). It is unclear precisely what the relationship was between the two companies, but Nihon Karuta advertised their decks as being in the “Tamada style” (玉田式), and certainly the patterns they printed were very similar. Nihon Karuta decks also often have the Tamada name printed on their branding cards. A safe guess would be that Nihon Karuta was a rebranding or expansion of the original Tamada Fukushōdō name, either to reflect the scope of a larger company or to project its ambitions.

Later records show that Nihon Karuta existed in 1948i[102] and through to at least the early 1980s.e[54]

Brands of both companies have included:e[54–5]

  • 花の王 (hana no ō, ‘queen of flowers’, the Cattleya)
  • 七福神 (shichi fukujin, the Seven Lucky Gods)
  • 大隊長 (daitaichō, ‘battalion commander’)
  • ふじ (fuji, ‘Fuji’)
  • 四光 (shikō, ‘four brights’)
  • 金の仲 (kane no naka, ‘golden relationship’, a reference to the trademark pronounced kane-naka)
  • 百万弗 (hyakumandoru, ‘a million dollars’)
  • 天狗 (tengu, Tengu)
  • 万両 (manryū, ‘10 000 coins’)
  • 千両 (senryū, ‘1000 coins’)
  • 九重櫻/九重さくら (kokonoezakura, ‘Kokonoe cherry blossoms’)
  • 梅印 (umejirushi ‘plum seal’)
  • 金富士 (kinfuji ‘gold Fuji’)
  • 御所車 (goshoguruma ‘ox-drawn coach’)
  • 金鷲 (kinshū ‘golden eagle’)
  • 金龍 (kinryū ‘golden dragon’)
  • 大入 (ōiri, ‘full house’, a theatre term)
  • 東錦 (higashinishiki, ‘eastern brocade’)
  • 三福 (sanfuku, ‘three fortunes’)
  • 萬國一/万国一 (bankokuichi, ‘best in the world’)
  • the kane-naka symbolのお正月 ([nihon karuta] no oshōgatsu, ‘Nihon Karuta’s new year’)
A hanafuda wrapper featuring a fan.
Tamada Fukushōdō’s higashinishiki wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper featuring a fan.
Nihon Karuta’s higashinishiki wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper featuring three people sitting on the floor playing a hanafuda game.
The kane no naka wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with plum blossoms
The umejirushi wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper featuring a palace and cherry blossom trees.
Nihon Karuta’s kokonoezakura wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper featuring a fan.
The inner higashinishiki wrapper, for a single deck.
A hanafuda wrapper with an image of Mount Fuji.
The kinfuji wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a shining jewel.
The hyakuman­doru wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a battledore paddle.
The oshōgatsu wrapper.

Nihon Karuta’s standard pattern was a variation on the Hachi­hachi­bana which included more detailing in the form of fine blue lines. The standout feature was the full moon card, which featured a rabbit pounding mochi in the moon:

Five Hanafuda cards, which have thin blue lines showing detail in the black areas, unlike standard Hanafuda cards.
The bright cards of Nihon Karuta’s special pattern.

Under the brand name of “Wind Mill”, Nihon Karuta have also produced Western-style playing cards, including their own Hana-Trump deck:

Five playing cards with the Hanafuda design in center and a corresponding Western card depicted in the corners that are not occupied by the card indices.
The bright cards of Nihon Karuta’s Hana-Trump deck. These are obviously based on the much older Universal Trump-Hana deck.
Five cards, one a joker and the other four being kings with various objects depicted.
The extra Hachi-Hachi-related cards of Nihon Karuta’s Hana-Trump deck. There is a windmill depicted in the corners of the Joker card.

Yamashiro Shōten (山城商店)

A manufacturer that existed in Kyōto in 1948,i[102] but stopped producing in 1962.e[33] Their manfufacturer’s mark was (circled ). Brands included:

  • 金坊主 (kinbōzu, ‘gold baldy’, ‘baldy’ being a nickname for a priest)
  • 関羽 (kan’u, Guan Yu)
  • 九紋竜 (kumonryū, ‘nine-tattoo dragon’, a nickname for Shi Jin)
  • 大黒 (daikoku, Daikokuten)
The frontage of a very wide Japanese store, with signs depicting several figures.
A box wrapper from around 1900 featuring an imaginary depiction of the Yamashiro store exterior; in reality it was nowhere near as large as this. The advertising boards at the left depict Guan Yu and Shi Jin, who represent two of the company’s brands. (🅮)
The front and back cover of a pamphlet
The cover of their pricelist shows a more realistic shopfront, of similar construction to Nintendō’s store that is shown in a photo above. (🅮)

Ryūtendō (龍天堂)

Existed in Kyōto in 1948;i[102] mark was a circled (they also possibly had another trade name of マルナ with circled as mark). Brands included:

  • 龍田川 (tatsutagawa, ‘Tatsuta river’)
  • 天龍 (tenryū, ‘Tenryū’)
  • 龍王 (ryūō, ‘dragon king’)
  • 鞍馬金天狗 (kurama kintengu, ‘Kurama golden tengu’; according to myth, Kurama is the home of the king of the tengu)
  • 福宝 (fukuhō, ‘good fortune, treasure’)

Inoue Juntendō (井上順天堂)

Existed in Kyōto in 1948;i[102] mark was a circled .

Nakao Seikadō (中尾清花堂)

Existed in Kyōto in 1948;i[102] mark was with corner at top-right.

Baba Keieidō (馬場京栄堂)

Existed in Kyōto in 1948;i[102] mark was a circled .

Heibon (平凡)

This Tōkyō manufacturer stopped producing shortly after 1972.e[42] Their maker’s mark was the phrase 天下一 (tenkaichi ‘best in the world’) written inside a large koban. Their brands included:

  • 四天王 (shi tennō the four heavenly kings), also used for Kabufuda
  • 牡丹獅子 (botanjishi ‘peony and lion’), also used for Kabufuda
  • 金時桜 (kintokizakuraKintoki and cherry blossom’)
  • 旭富士 (asahifujiFuji sunrise’)
  • 桜判官 (sakurahangan ‘cherry blossom judge’, a reference to Tōyama Kagemoto)

Kawakita (川北)

Kawakita had its own brands but cards were made by Yamashiro Shōten. It closed after 1962.e[48–9] Brands included:

Kohara Honten (小原本店)

Kohara was a manufacturer based in Ōsaka until 1980.e[48] Their manufacturer’s mark was a circled , and brands included:

  • 鬼印 (onijirushi, ‘ogre brand’, also for Kabufuda and Harifuda)
  • 王将 (ōshō, the king of the stronger player in Shōgi, also used for Kabufuda)
  • 大登龍 (daitōryū, ‘great rising dragon’), also used for Kabufuda
  • 金札印 (kinfudajirushi, ‘golden card brand’)
  • 鍾馗 (shōki, Shōki the demon-queller)
  • 馬印 (umajirushi, ‘horse brand’)
  • 宝船 (takarabune, ‘treasure ship’)
  • 寶引 (hōbiki, ‘treasure pull’, a kind of lottery where one rope out of a bundle was tied to the prize, and whoever pulled it won; these were Hikifuda cards)
  • 蝶々 (chōchō, ‘butterflies’)
  • 松竹梅 (shōchikubai, ‘pine bamboo plum’, the “three friends of winter”)
  • 折鶴 (oridzuru, ‘origami crane’)
  • 八千代 (yachiyo, ‘forever’, literally ‘eight thousand years’)
  • 鳴戸 (naruto, ‘whirlpool’)
  • (fune, ‘ship’), used for Kabufuda
  • 成駒家 (narikomaya, a kabuki actor’s yagō, probably here referring to Nakamura Ganjirō II)
A hanafuda wrapper with an angry ogre mask.
The onijirushi wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a ship sailing a flag reading “treasure” in Japanese.
The takarabune wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a warrior wearing a helmet with long horns.
The shōki wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with two butterflies on it.
The chōchō wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a folded paper crane.
The oridzuru wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with bamboo, pine needles, and plum blossoms.
The shōchikubai wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a large drum and a blossom-viewing curtain.
The yachiyo wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with birds circling a whirlpool.
The naruto wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a ship on it.
The fune wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a symbol repeated on it.
The narikomaya wrapper. The repeated symbol is イ菱 caltrop’, the mon of the Nakamura Ganjirō line of actors.

Nakao Kōkeidō (中尾晃恵堂)

A company in Ōsaka which had its cards manufactured by Nihon Karuta. Its mark was circled . The only brands I know of are:

  • 梅ヶ枝 (umegae, ‘plum branch’)
  • 松風 (matsukazu, ‘(the sound of) wind blowing through pine trees’)
A hanafuda wrapper with a stylized plum tree.
The umegae wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a stylized pine tree.
The matsukaze wrapper.

Nishimura (西村)

A card with a samurai wearing traditional clothing and carrying an open umbrella
An extra ‘advertising’ card featuring the kabuki character Sukeroku, who appeared often in Nishimura’s branding. Sukeroku popularized the style of umbrella called a ‘snake-eye umbrella’ (蛇の目傘) due to its pattern, so this type of umbrella is also referred to as a Sukeroku-gasa (助六傘).
2020 Marcus Richert, with permission)

At first an important manufacturer in Tōkyō, but later cards were made by other makers including Ōishi Tengudō. Their mark was a circled , and their brands included:e[54, 58]

  • 金助六 (kinsukeroku, ‘golden Sukeroku’)
  • 銀助六 (ginsukeroku, ‘silver Sukeroku’)
  • 小天狗 (kotengu, ‘little Tengu’)
  • 花の花 (hana no hana, ‘flower of flowers’)
  • 白雪 (shirayuki, ‘white snow’)
  • 百万石 (hyakumangoku, ‘one million koku’, a nickname for the rich Kaga domain, or its lord, in the Edo period), no longer produced as of 1980
  • 奴さん (yakkosan, ‘guy’, a samurai manservant, also a traditional origami shape imitating a man), no longer produced as of 1980
A picture of a die surrounded by various playing cards.
A picture of a hand holding various playing cards, and a Tengu mask.
Two Nishimura advertisements, from the December 1907 issue of the “Tokyo Toilet Trade Journal”. The advert on the right shows that they also sold Ōishi Tengudō products.
(日本粧業会 資料館 🅮)

Kyōto Karuta (京都かるた)

A Kyōto manufacturer, founded by an ex-employee of Nihon Karuta. They were active in the 1960s & ’70s, but closed in the 1990s.k Their brands included:e[49]

  • 金の司 (kin no tsukasa ‘officer of gold’)
  • 大帝王 (daiteiō ‘great emperor’, also used for Kabufuda)
  • 神鉾 (kamihoko ‘sacred halberd’, also used for Kabufuda)
  • つかさ天狗 (tsukasatengu, ‘chief tengu’)
  • 花あらし (hanaarashi, ‘flower storm’, a heavy fall of blossoms)
  • 短冊 (tanzaku, ‘poetry strip’)
  • ぼたん (botan, ‘peony’)

Dai Nippon (大日本)

A manufacturer from the city of Yōkaichi (now part of Higashiōmi), Shiga prefecture (滋賀県八日市市). Their logo is a group of three gourds, which is considered to be a lucky symbol.

Brands included:e[46]

  • 銀達磨 (gindaruma ‘silver Daruma’)
  • 千姫 (senhimeLady Sen’)
  • 銀瓠 (ginhyō ‘silver gourd’)
  • 金瓠 (kinhyō ‘gold gourd’)
  • 豊太閤On some versions of this, it is misspelt 豊太閣. (hōtaikō, a title of honour for Toyotomi Hideyoshi)
  • 千成 (sennari, short for 千成瓢箪 sennaribyōtan ‘thousand gourds’, the standard used by Hideyoshi)
A hanafuda wrapper with a man wearing tall headdress and holding a fan.
The hōtaikō wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a woman wearing robes.
The senhime wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a gold gourd on a red background and with cherry petals falling.
The kinhyō wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a silver gourd on a blue background and with maple leaves falling.
The ginhyō wrapper.

Nippon Yūgi Gangu/Nichiyū (日本遊戯玩具/ニチユー)

Nippon Yūgi’s kintengu brand.

Nippon Yūgi (also known as Nichiyū) was founded in Tōkyō in 1946. They still exist but no longer appear to produce Hanafuda cards, instead specializing in tarot. Their previous brands included:e[54]

  • 白鶴 (hakuzuru, ‘white crane’)
  • (日遊)金天狗 ((nichiyū) kintengu, ‘Nippon Yūgi golden Tengu’)
  • (ōtori, ‘splendid bird’, a male Japanese phoenix)
  • (utage, ‘banquet’)
  • 大入叶 (ōirikanō, ‘grant a full house’, a theatre term)
  • (kabuto, ‘samurai helmet’)
  • 花川戸 (hanakawado, a place in Tōkyō)
  • 花あわせ (hana-awase, ‘flower matching’)

They also produced a poker-sized Hanafuda deck that included point values on the cards, as well as the name of the month and the flower associated with the month. Interestingly, the point values on some of the cards indicate that they were intended to be played with Hawaiian rules.

Five hanafuda cards with points which are marked with values listed in the corners, the flower listed at top, and the month listed at bottom.
Nippon Yūgi’s poker-format deck, possibly created for sale in Hawai'i.

Universal (ユニバーサル)

Universal also published standard Western decks; this Ace shows the logo of a star containing the letters U & C intertwined.
Paul Bostock, with permission)

The Universal Playing Card Company was based in Ōsaka. Their maker’s mark on Hanafuda decks was a drawstring purse (巾着 kinchaku); elsewhere they used a six-pointed star containing “UNIVERSAL” or an interlocked U & C. Their own brands included:e[59–62]

  • ゴム花 (gomuhana, ‘rubber flower’)
  • 萬年花 (mannenhana, ‘10 000 year flower’)

They also, like other manufacturers, produced combination Trump-Hana (トランプ花) decks, and in multiple sizes.

The smallest size deck (numbered “350”) has cards that are much closer in size to that of Hanafuda than other brands’ combination cards are. A very similar deck was published under the brand “Star Playing Cards” (numbered “807”, with a five-pointed star).

The Bright cards of Universal’s Trump-Hana deck. This particular deck is listed as number “350” on the packaging.
The extra Hachi-Hachi-related cards of Universal’s Trump-Hana deck. I’m not sure of the significance of the “vase” Joker, since usually the Joker has the manufacturer’s name. It could be intended as a multilingual pun on “Universal” (ユニバーセル yunibāseru) → “Universe” (ユニバース yunibāsu), which sounds like “uni-vase” (one vase).
Two small playing cards, the first a joker with a person in a robber-mask inside a star shape, and the second a paulownia card with yellow background and the words “U.P.C. Co.”
The joker and manufacturer’s Paulownia card from the “Star Playing Cards” brand. The Universal #350 deck’s manufacturer’s card is identical to this one.

A larger sized Hana-Trump deck (numbered “25”) of theirs has different Kings which feature additional Hanafuda-style cards that could be used as an additional suit in games with more players.

The Bright cards of Universal’s Hana-Trump deck. This particular deck is listed as number “25” on the packaging.
The Bamboo–King extra suit of Universal’s Hana-Trump deck. The extra cards, from left-to-right, are: an additional Bright card featuring Princess Yaegaki (八重垣姫), a character from the traditional bunraku (and later kabuki) play 24 Paragons of Filial Piety (本朝廿四孝, Honchō Nijūshikō), who is taking a magical helmet to her lover across frozen Lake Suwa; the tanzaku card, which is inscribed さゝ𛂜ゆき (sasa no yuki, ‘snow on bamboo’); the tane card, showing two sparrows; and the kasu card, which has a yellow background similar to one of the Paulownia cards.
The reverse of the deck features a grape vine pattern. There are also two jokers included, one featuring a kadomatsu (門松), and the other with significantly less effort invested in its design. Note the small six-pointed stars in the corners, containing the letters U & C intertwined.

Kawai

A manufacturer from Ōsaka, whose mark was with corner at top-right.a[135]

Akata Shōjōya (赤田猩々屋)

A Kyōto manufacturer whose mark was in a circle.

A card with an image of a woman carrying a fan with the manufacturer’s name written upon it, surrounded by leaves of the various plants of the Hanafuda deck
An additional manufacturer’s card included with an Akata Shōjōya deck, produced after 1902. BnF Gallica has high-quality scans of this deck, and Yale University also owns a copy.
(BnF 🅮)
A newspaper ad in Japanese with pictures of Hanafuda and Western playing cards.
An advertisement for Akata Shōjōya cards in the Nichi Bei Times, September 1921. This indicates the cards were being imported into San Francisco in the 1920s.
(Hoover Institution 🅮)

Suisando (翠山堂)

A manufacturer that has a very finely-detailed deck of cards reproduced in A History of Playing Cards (13).

Nihon Goraku (日本娯楽)

Nihon Goraku’s takejirushi wrapper.
Marcus Richert, with permission)

Nihon Goraku was founded in 1945 as Takahashi Shōten (高橋商店), was renamed Nishinihon Koppai (西日本骨牌) in 1966, and became Nihon Goraku in 1968.m They were based in Shinhama, Onomichi city, Hiroshima (広島県尾道市新浜), and originally had their cards manufactured by Kyōto Karuta. Nowadays the company imports musical instruments.

Their mark was circled , and brands included:

  • 山伏 (yamabushi, a mountain-dwelling hermit, practitioner of Shugendō)
  • 福の神 (fuku no kami, ‘god of fortune’, the name of a recurring character in kyōgen and also the title of a play)
  • 天狗 (tengu), also used for Kabufuda
  • 竹印 (takejirushi, ‘bamboo brand’)

Nishi­guchi Shōten (西口商店)

Nishi­gushi also manufactured board games (such as Gunjin Shogi) Some of their decks were manufactured by Nihon Karuta. Their mark was a circled , the same as Kyōwadō. Brands included:

  • おたのしみ (otanoshimi, ‘enjoyment’)
A hanafuda wrapper showing images of hanafuda cards.
The otanoshimi wrapper.

Kyōwadō (京和堂)

A company about which I know very little. Presumably from the name they were based in Kyōto. Their mark was a circled , the same as Nishi­guchi Shōten. Their brands included:

  • 京寶船 (kyō­takarabune, ‘Kyōto treasure ship’)
  • 京紅梅 (kyō­kōbai, ‘Kyōto red plum’)This is a likely categorization based upon the design of the box, but the maker’s mark appears to be different.

Kamigataya (上方屋)

For more about Kamigataya, see the history article. Early on, Kamigataya had decks made (by Nintendō) with their own brand, but they would later sell Nintendō-branded cards directly. Their maker’s mark was 片󠄃 with angle. Brands included:

  • 白菊 (shirokiku, ‘white chrysanthemum’)
  • 倭錦 (yamatonishiki, ‘ancient Japanese brocade’)
  • 都錦 (miyakonishiki, ‘capital brocade’)

Marukin

Marukin was a company based in the city of Sakata, Yamagata prefecture (山形県酒田市). Their mark was a circled . Brands included:

  • 金天狗 (kintengu, ‘golden Tengu’)

Ōtani Shōten (大谷商店)

Ōtani Shōten was a company based in the town of Sakurai, in Shiki district, Nara prefecture (奈良県磯城郡桜井町, now part of Sakurai). Their mark was a circled . Brands included:

  • 千島 (chishima, ‘thousand islands’, the Japanese name for the Kuril Islands)

Tōhoku Karuta (東北骨牌)

Tōhoku was a manufacturer based in the city of Tendō, Yamagata prefecture (山形県天童市). They originally appear to have been a manufacturer (including for Seieidō), but later outsourced production to Tamura Shōgundō. The company seems to still exist in some form as Tendon Shogi. Their manufacturer’s mark was a circled , and their own brands included:

  • 初梅 (hatsu­ume, ‘new plum’)
  • 出羽桜 (dewa­zakura, ‘Dewa cherry’)
  • 白菊 (shira­giku, ‘white chrysanthemum’)

Seieidō (精英堂)

Seieidō was a post-war manufacturer. They do not appear to have had a manufacturer’s mark, instead writing their full name on the Paulownia card. Their brands included:

  • 戎印 (ebisu­jirushi, ‘Ebisu brand’)
A hanafuda deck wrapper with an image of a smiling man carrying a fishing pole and two fish.
Seieidō’s Ebisu brand.
2020 Ryan Sartor, with permission)

Unknown

The following brands are by unknown manufacturers. Any help identifying them would be greatly appreciated!

  • 𛂁𛁲゙𛁈𛀸/な𛁲゙𛁈𛀸/なでしこ (nadeshiko, ‘pink’ (the flower))
  • 金舞扇 (kinmaiōgi, ‘gold dancer’s fan’)
  • 銀舞扇 (ginmaiōgi, ‘silver dancer’s fan’)
  • 勝力士 (katsu rikishi, ‘winning sumo wrestler’)
  • 般若 (hannya, a noh mask representing a horned female demon)
  • 優良太平楽 (yūryō taiheiraku ‘excellent happy-go-lucky’, which is the name of a gagaku piece)
A hanafuda wrapper with an image of a fan, and a gold background
The kinmaiōgi wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with an image of a fan, and a silver background
The ginmaiōgi wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with an image of a horned mask.
The hannya wrapper.
A hanafuda wrapper with a costumed dancer and drum.
The taiheiraku wrapper.

References

  1. . Ostasiatische Spielkarten. Germany: Deutsches Spielkarten Museum.
  2. . ‘’. Japan Playing Card Museum.
  3. . .
  4. . ‘’. The North Carolina Historical Review 50 (4): 347–363. North Carolina Office of Archives and History.
  5. . ‘Modern Japanese Wrappers’. Journal of the International Playing-Card Society 10 (2): 33–63.
  6. . . ‘’. Iwano Art Co.
  7. . ‘Game over: the last days of hand-made Japanese playing cards’. Andon 83: 39–46.
  8. . 手わざの記憶. Tōkyō, Japan: 中央公論新社.
  9. . 最後の読みカルタ. 帝国コンサルタント社友会科学文化部出版局.
  10. . . London, UK: Longmans & Co.
  11. . ‘’. Japan Academy of Gambling & Gaming Studies Newsletter (9).
  12. (1930) . A History of Playing Cards. Mineola, New York, USA: Dover Publications. ISBN: 978-0-486-41236-8.
  13. . . ‘’. 日本娯楽.