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GALLERY INDEX
~~ Gallery 20 ~~
Regional Cards

Japan
page 9
Kabu Patterns
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GALLERY INDEX


I wish to thank Jeff Hopewell, John McLeod, Tadahiko Norieda and Hironori Takahashi
for their kind cooperation





KABU CARDS
(SINGLE-SUITED PATTERNS)



the cards shown in this page are by Nintendo (Japan), except the Komaru pattern, by Ôishi (Japan)



Daini pattern: the "standard" 1, 2, 3, 4 (top)
and the "special" 1, 3, 4 (bottom)
Sometime during the 18th century a new group of patterns sprung from the mekuri family; they used only one of the four suits, and the same series was repeated four times. These cards were mainly used for the game of Kabu, whence the name they are now referred to with, but locally they are also known as "1-suit cards", or "single-suited cards".
Not in all such patterns each series kept the traditional twelve subjects (ace, pip cards from 2 to 9, and three courts): in some of them the sequence was shortened to only ten cards by dropping the last two courts, i.e. the knave was left as the highest subject. Therefore, some of the patterns have 48 cards, while others have 40.

As mekuri varieties, also these patterns have an extra Oni-fuda ("ogre card"), more properly called Kin-fuda ("golden card"), what is often spelt on the small notice above the ogre's head; several samples are shown further down in the page.


1 and 4 from Kinseizan pattern,
"standard" series (above) and
"special" series (below)
Kabu patterns can be divided into two main groups, the ones whose only suit is Hau (i.e. Batons), and the ones that use Ôru (i.e. Coins).
The three patterns belonging to the former group are rather similar; in particular, the only differences between Irinokichi and Kinseizan are the silver overprints on the aces and on the courts. This is probably due to the fact of having been used in a rather limited region of central Japan (see map further doen in the page).
Instead the patterns of the second group vary more considerably; they were used in a wider range of areas in the south-west.

the court cards of Irinokichi (above)
and Kinseizan (below) only differ
by their silver overprints
In all single-suited patterns, three series of the deck are absolutely identical, while the fourth one has a few "special" subjects (ace, 3 and 4 in Coin-suited patterns; ace and 4 in Batons-suited ones) with particular decorations, elaborate backgrounds, silver overprints, to distinguish them from the "standard" ones.
In only one of the patterns, Kudosan, all twelve subjects of the fourth series are different.


Kudosan pattern: on the left are ace, 2 e 3, on the right are the three courts
("normal" subjects in the upper rows, "special" ones in the lower rows)


A summary of the aforesaid features is shown in the following tables.


KABU PATTERNS THAT USE THE SUIT OF ÔRU

namecards in the deckspecial cards
in the
fourth series

Daini
40 + Oni-fuda1, 3, 4

Komaru
40 + Oni-fuda1, 3, 4

Kudosan
48 + Oni-fudaall twelve

Mefuda
40 + Oni-fuda1, 3, 4
KABU PATTERNS THAT USE THE SUIT OF HAU

namecards in the deckspecial cards
in the
fourth series

Irinokichi
48 + Oni-fuda1, 4

Kabufuda
40, no Oni-fuda1, 4

Kinseizan
48 + Oni-fuda1, 4

The geographic location of each pattern is as follows.

1 DAINI
2 KOMARU
3 KUDOSAN
4 MEFUDA
1 IRINOKICHI
2 KABUFUDA
3 KINSEIZAN

Mefuda pattern: the "standard" 1, 2, 3, 4 (top)
and the "special" 1, 3, 4 (bottom)

Komaru pattern: the "standard" 1, 2, 3, 4 (top)
and the "special" 1, 3, 4 (bottom)
Also for one-suited patterns the names do not relate to their geographic distribution, which was mainly concentrated in the south-western half of the country (as shown in the previous map); they were chosen according to distinctive graphic details featured by each of them. Thus, Daini means "large two", Komaru is "small circle", Kudosan means "nine times three", and so on.


The name Kabu is one of the special terms used by the players for indicating the ten values (see table on the right). Similar nicknames are also found in the game of Tehonbiki, for the many combinations; likely, this may have been part of the attempt of disguising the game which, as any other form of gamble, was strictly forbidden.

the names of the ten values in Kabu

Mefuda pattern: 5, 8 and knave
In modern times, though, such lack of relation between the slangue names and the actual numbers - for instance, in modern Japanese the word kabu only means "share of stock", or "tree-stump" - may have contributed to the by young generations' growing misinterest in this game, now rarely played, yet not obsolete.
Another common feature shared by Kabu and Tehonbiki is that each player individually bets against the banker, although in this game the purpose is to try to obtain a score as close as possible to 9. Strong analogies exist with Western gambling games such as Baccarat or Black Jack.
Another game played with kabu decks, Kingo, has a similar structure, but in this case the best possible score is 15.

Komaru pattern: 9 and knave

Most kabu patterns died out around the 1960s, by the same time the 4-suited mekuri ones suffered the same fate. Few specimens are now produced mainly for collecting purposes. Only one of them was not discontinued, and is still regularly produced for play: the Kabufuda.


Oni-fuda (Kin-fuda) from the patterns Kudosan, Mefuda, Daini, Komaru and Kinseizan
(the last one is also found in the Irinokichi pattern)





KABUFUDA


Kabufuda, literally meaning "Kabu cards" (a generic yet functional name, being all other patterns of the group already obsolete) is a deck belonging to the variants that use the suit of Batons. Its four series run from the ace to the knave (ten subjects), for a total of 40 cards. There is no Oni-fuda, but a spare blank extra card is usually included in all editions.

Black is the only colour extensively used, with a few details in red. Only "special" subjects also have silver and gold.

the full set of single-suited values in the Kabufuda deck
The ace features a highly stylized black oval shape, with a geometric texture in the background.
The knave, the only court card of the deck (and also the only double-headed subject), features a personage in a Western fashion, who holds a very short sword in his hand; unlike all other mekuri and kabu patterns, this personage is neatly drawn, closely resembling the jack in Poker or Bridge cards. Likely, during the 20th century this card may have changed its look, from the strongly stylized Japanese fashion to a more westernized shape.

All the cards have small numeral indices repeated in the top part of the illustration, spelt in Chinese-Japanese characters. The ace is the only exception, as it has a single red dot; the 3 has a triple zig-zag line probably referring to the Oriental character for this numeral (three horizontal strokes), while the index for the knave is disguised as a flag with a white cross (a cross is the character for 10).
The "special" cards of the fourth series are only two: an ace and a 4.
The former is completely different from the standard aces, featuring an outlined triangle over a bell shape turned upside-down, on a red background with a silver texture (in the edition shown, the card bears the manufacturer's logo and name). The "special" 4, instead, is similar to ordinary ones, but has an additional gold medal in the centre and a spiral-shaped silver texture in the upper half.

the "special" ace and 4


other pages in this gallery
page 1
historical and
general notes
page 2
Hanafuda
introduction
page 3
Hwatu

page 4
Hanafuda
patterns
page 5
special
editions
page 6
Hanafuda
cartoons
page 7
Mekuri
patterns
page 9
Tehonbiki

page 10
"thin"
cards





OTHER GALLERIES

non-standard patterns advertisement decks sizes, shapes and colours standard pattern variants tarots non-suited cards Mercante in Fiera Uta Karuta, Iroha Karuta, Dôsai Karuta Âs nas
regional patterns: Italy regional patterns: Spain regional patterns: Germany regional patterns: Austria regional patterns: Switzerland regional patterns: France regional patterns: Sweden regional patterns: Portugal regional patterns: China regional patterns: South-Eastern Asia regional patterns: India uncut sheets mottos and proverbs

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INTRODUCTION
AND HISTORY

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THE FOOL &
THE JOKER
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INDEX
TABLE
Regional Games
REGIONAL
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PLAYING CARD
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