Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Hanafuda Card Game (花札)

Aside from the ever-present pachinko, hanafuda has been for a while one of the two games I associate with yakuza. The other, probably due to Rurouni Kenshin’s [link] influence is dice; actually when I read Confessions of a Yakuza (a Life in Japan’s Underworld) [link] they did mention dice quite a few times, back in the 1920’s, but I don’t remember if they mentioned hanafuda at any point.

For some reason, however, hanafuda captured my curiosity, and I did give Okonogi Kazuki a liking for the game. I wanted to learn to play, so there I went, with Beta-san’s help.

Hanafuda, 花札 (flower cards), is a card game, extended among yakuza in Japan and ‘normal’ people in South Korea. There are twelve suits that represent months, and each month is illustrated with a different flower.

January Pine 一月 松 Ichigatsu Matsu
February Ume 二月梅 Nigatsu Plum blossom
March Cherry blossom 三月 桜 Sangatsu Sakura
April Wisteria 四月 藤 Shigatsu Fuji
May Iris 五月菖蒲 Gogatsu Ayame
June Peony 六月 牡丹 Rokugatsu Botan
July Bush Clover 七月萩 Shichigatsu Hagi
August Chinese Silver Grass 八月 薄 Hachigatsu Susuki
September Chrysanthemum 九月菊 Kugatsu Kiku
October Maple 十月紅葉 Jūgatsu Momiji
November Willow 十一月 柳 Jūichigatsu Yanagi
December Paulownia 十二月桐 Jūnigatsu Kiri

Each suit has four cards, and the goal of the simplest game is matching pairs of flowers. There are four different kinds of cards, the ‘basic’ one, which just features the flower, the ‘scroll’ one, which features calligraphy, and the ‘special’ ones, with different motives. The basic ones are worth 1 point, the scroll ones are worth 5 points, and the value of the special ones ranges between 10 and 20. The actual cards are smaller and thicker than Western cards and quite a handful to put together for shuffling.

Each player receives eight cards, and extra eight are placed in the middle, face up. The rest of the stack is kept face-down. The dealer has the first hand, and a typical hand goes as follows:

  1. If the player has a card matching one from the face-up row, they make a pair and take those cards away for future counting. If the player does not have any matching cards, they put one of their own cards down
  2. The player uncovers one of the cards from the face-down stack; if with this card they can form a pair, they take both cards away.

The game is over when one of the players or the middle row is left with no cards, and then the count is done. The winner is the one with more points.

In the more complicated games, different pairings add up points, but in the basic game the idea is to make as many pairs as possible, particularly with the special cards. I was playing this with Beta-san (thank you!) and got no clue of who won in the end, but we had fun, and in the end it counts as research, doesn’t it? XD

Check the article on Wikipedia, most of the information is there [link]


3 responses to “Hanafuda Card Game (花札)

  1. Beta-san August 22, 2011 at 20:37

    I won.