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~~ Gallery 20 ~~
Regional Cards

page 4
Hanafuda Regional Patterns
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I wish to thank Tadahiko Norieda for his kind cooperation
the Japanese words have been romanized, i.e. spelt in letters according to their original sound,
following the Hepburn system, officially used in most Western countries;
due to the absence of the macron among the ASCII characters,
the latter has been replaced with the circumflex accent (e.g.  Ô = long "O")

Many varieties of the flower cards once existed, and are now extinct. Some of them were patterns related to particular places in Japan, and bore the name of cities, such as the Yamagatabana; among them was the Dairen, after the Chinese city in southern Manchuria, born during Japan's occupation of this region.
Also size varieties existed. Some patterns were alternatively made in a smaller version, called Kobana ("small flower cards"); for instance, Echigokobana was the small version of the standard-sized Echigobana, and besides the reduced dimensions also the illustrations had a few differences.
Other cards, known as Usukuchibana ("thin flower cards") were less thick than the usual Japanese cardstock, and were used by women.
Editions both small and thin, instead, were called Kaichuubana ("pocket flower cards"), easy to carry and to hide away.

The following table summarizes the names of the recorded patterns. This list may be incomplete: some of the patterns have an alternative name, and an official classification scheme has only been attempted in very recent years. However, a true distinction between the local patterns was only to be found from the Meiji period (1868-1912) onwards, as most samples prior to this time seem to contain elements in common with more than one pattern.
All of their names have the suffix -bana, i.e. "-flower", which specifies their belonging to the group of Hanafuda, or flower cards.
 (map reference) 


(generic pattern)

























All of these patterns have the same composition of the general pack described in page 2, except the following two:
  • the Mushibana, whose main feature is to lack two suits, Botan (peony) and Hagi (bush clover), for a total of 40 cards; the name of this particular pattern comes from the game of Mushi, i.e. "insect", played with this deck, but the graphics are the same as generic Hanafuda cards (Hachi-Hachi pattern);
  • the Ryuukobana, i.e. "dragon and tiger flower cards", recently created, for four players (instead of the usual two), which has two additional suits, and is mentioned in page 4, among the special decks.

  • Two regional Hanafuda patterns are presented in this page: the Echigobana and the Kintokibana.


    all the samples shown come from an edition by Ôishi, Tengudô brand (Japan)

    the full suit of Matsu (pine)
    Echigo is the former name of the present Niigata, in the central-northern part of the country.
    The main features of this pattern are an extensive use of silver and gold details over the main illustrations, and the presence of short poems (tanka) added to kasu or trash cards belonging to the Matsu (pine), Ume (plum), Fuji (wisteria), Shôbu (iris), Susugi (silver grass) and Momiji (maple leaves) families.

    the Sakura (cherry)
    "curtain" card
    The tanka are divided into two halves, featured on each of the two kasu cards. This graphic element, which has nothing to do with the gambling game, was probably conceived as an attempt of disguising Hanafuda cards as Uta Karuta, or "poet cards" (see the relevant gallery), since the latter were not prohibited.

    the full suit of
    Shôbu (iris)
    With the same purpose are also consistent the heavy silver and golden additions, some of which do not look as decorations, but probably are an expedient for almost completely covering the underlying subject (e.g. the suit of Shôbu, or iris), in a fashion similar to the "distorted" court cards in Mekuri and Kabu patterns (see page 5 and page 6 for some samples). Not in all editions, though, these coverings are so evident as in the samples shown.

    top: full suit of
    Susuki (silver grass)

    boar (from Hagi), deer (Momiji) and phoenix (Kiri)
    Another feature that makes this pattern easily recognizable is the striped sky of all the cards of the Matsu, Ume and Susugi suits.

    Some of the animals featured in tane cards are considerably stylized, in particular the boar in Hagi (bush clover), and the deer in Momiji (maple leaf). The blue ribbons, i.e. those of Botan or peony, Kiku or chrisanthemum and Momiji, in this pattern have a very dark colour.
    But probably the most peculiar detail of the Echigobana deck is the "rain" card, which features a folded umbrella with two legs (evidently the calligraphist is inside!), while no trace of the usual frog is left.
    below: full suit of Yanagi (willow);
    note the peculiar "rain" card

    However, a folded umbrella was also found in the Yamagatabana pattern, now extinct, but also in early editions (19th century, see below). This is not the only element of similarity with the original Hanafuda decks; also tanka poems featured in some of the kasu cards, as well as other minor graphic details, reveal that the Echigobana pattern is modelled on the pre-Meiji flower card decks (i.e. prior to 1868), while the design of the common Hachihachibana pattern , as well as some others, was created during the Meiji age (see page 2).

    blue ribbon of Momiji
    Modern editions comprise an extra card, but it does not specifically belong to the Echigobana pattern; the one used in Ôishi's edition, shown on the right, generically features the manufacturer's logo: a Tengu (a traditional character with a long nose).

    A different edition of Echigobana cards is shown in D.King's page PLAYING CARDS OF THE WORLD.

    the extra card

    19th century flower card deck (reprint by Ôishi), showing some graphic details retained by the Echigobana pattern:
    the folded umbrella, the white background of the kasu card from the same Willow family, the plumpy shape of trees in Pine,
    the very dark colour of the blue ribbons, the tanka poems on kasu cards of six families (Iris, in this sample)


    all the samples shown come from an edition by Ôishi, Kintengu brand (Japan)

    The Kintokibana (officially Awabana) is a pattern born in Awa (Shikoku island, presently in the prefecture of Tokushima). The name Kintoki is referred to the legendary personage featured on the extra card (see below). Later, this pattern spread to the north, towards the mainland, where today is the prefecture of Okayama.

    the full suit of Matsu (pine);
    note the verses on the kasu cards

    The most outstanding feature of the pattern is the presence of numerals, referring to the twelve families or suits. They are found on almost every kasu (trash) card, in the shape of an encircled Japanese-Chinese character.
    Also all the tan (ribbons) but one feature a number, which is a part of the name of the month in Japanese language: "month 1" is January i.e. the suit of Matsu (pine), "month 2" is February i.e. the suit of Ume (plum), and so on.
    Only two tane cards, from the suits of Fuji (wisteria) and Yanagi (willow), bear the encircled number, while the latter is not featured in other subjects, among which are all five cards.

    kasu cards from the suit
    of Kiku (chrisanthemum)
    Only the suit of Kiri (paulownia), shown further down, has all four numberless cards.

    tane and tan cards from the suit
    of Fuji (wisteria): the ribbon
    reads "4th month" (April)
    The use of numbers in this pattern is likely a trace of the time when Kabu and Mekuri games were prohibited, and Hanafuda packs were often used as legal substitutes for by-passing the ban. In fact, thanks to the added numbers the twelve Hanafuda flower families may be easily turned into four series of values from 1 to 12, i.e. as Mekuri and most Kabu patterns have (see page 5 and page 6 for details).

    tane and tan cards from the suit
    of Botan (peony): the ribbon
    reads "6th month" (June)

    Besides the numbers, other differences with the "standard" Hanafuda pattern described in page 2 are the details in many individual cards: the striped pines in the suit of Matsu, the decorated curtain in the suit of Sakura, the white/silver blades of grass in the Susuki cards, the plain white background of the only kasu card of Yanagi (usually red), and a few others.
    Furthermore, the kasu cards of Matsu and Susuki feature a tanka, similar to the ones found in the aforesaid Echigobana pattern, whose text is incomplete.

    and kasu cards from the suit
    of Sakura (cherry blossom)

    the full Yanagi and Kiri suits
    Finally, the extra subject of the Kintoki deck, after which this pattern was renamed: the Kintarô card.
    Very popular in the Japanese folk tradition, yet based on a personage who actually lived around the 10th century, Kintarô was a child of extraordinary strength, who outrooted trees and wrestled with bears in the mountains where he lived.

    the Kintarô card
    Once grown up, he became a distinguished warrior or samurai, changing his name into Kintoki Sakata.

    He is traditionally featured as a rather stout boy with tanned (red) skin, who wears only a breastplate with a large character for "gold" (kin), and carries an axe.

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

    page 5
    page 6
    page 7
    page 8
    page 9

    page 10


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