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~~ Gallery 20 ~~
Regional Cards

Japan Korea

page 3
(Flower Cards)
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I wish to thank Fernando Moros and Adelina Yeo for their help


Hwatu (sometimes spelt Hwa-t'u, Hwa-tu, Ha-tu, Ha-to, or Kwa-do) is the Korean version of Hanafuda. Brought into the country by the time of the Japanese rule over Korea (1905-1945), both the deck and the game have now become part of the local tradition.
Also in this case the name reads "flower cards", and although the deck is basically the same as Hanafuda (i.e. 48 cards, divided into twelve families with names of flowers and plants, each one made of four cards), a few typical differences can be told.

three of the five "light" cards from a Korean deck:
notice the Chinese character in their corners
  • The five "light" cards feature in one corner a small disk with the Chinese character  guang, meaning "light, bright". The character is usually spelt in white, seldom in yellow. It is never found in Japanese editions, although guang has the same meaning as hikari in Japanese Hanafuda. In the Korean version it was probably added as a reminder of the "light" subjects for beginners; since it was maintained on the cards, it became part of the local design.
  • The ribbons that in Japanese Hanafuda decks are usually purple (from Peony, Chrysanthemum and Maple families), in Hwatu are blue.

  • The text featured on the ribbons, obviously spelled in Korean characters, reads hung-don ("red ribbon") in Pine, Plum and Cherry's ribbons, and chung-don ("blue ribbon") in the ones of Peony, Chrysanthemum and Maple families. In Japanese decks, the purple ribbons, matching the Korean blue ones, do not have any text at all.

a blue ribbon card,
with Korean text

above: the moon card often features a logo;
below: second scoring card of Paulownia, from different editions

  • In many editions the moon card, i.e. the highest subject of the Eulalia suit, features a small logo of the manufacturer.

  • In the second scoring card of the Paulownia suit the ground is coloured in red, whereas in Japanese editions it is coloured in yellow; this part of the illustration often bears the manufacturer's name or brand. In Hwatu decks the two flowers featured above may be either red and yellow (double colour), or blueish-purple; in the Japanese Hanafuda both of them are purple, as well.
  • Hwatu editions usually have more extra subjects than Japanese ones (a variable number, up to six per deck), which may be used in local variants of the game as bonus cards, i.e. when added to a combination of "light" cards, or ribbon cards, the holder scores extra points.
    Sometimes among these subjects is a variant of the "trash" card of the suit of Willow, featuring a small logo of the manufacturer.
    However, these additional cards are not necessary for playing the standard game, and some sets come without them.
From a graphic point of view, details in Hwatu decks produced by different manufacturers show minimal differences, and follow rather strictly the classic pattern, as Japanese editions do, as well.

Modern Korean decks are usually made of plastic, a material that during the past two decades has replaced the traditional thick pasteboard still used for Japanese cards, maybe less nice to handle than the original material but definitely more resistant to wear and less expensive. The face of these plastic cards is glossy, while their back is often rough, with a texture in relief, to prevent them from slipping while held in hand or from sliding on the table (see detail).

six extra cards from a Hwatu deck

more samples of extra cards: note how football, in particular the World Cup, is a favourite theme

detail of the
non-slip back's texture

The table on the right shows how the names of the families (or suits) are very similar to the Japanese ones. The month of March, Sakura, has remained unchanged.
Mae JoPlumFebruary
Huk Sa RiWisteriaApril
Nan ChoIrisMay
Mok DanPeonyJune
Hung Sa RiBush CloverJuly
Pal GongMoonAugust
Guk HaChrysanthemumSeptember

an edition with five extra cards, four of which feature Korean personages wearing traditional clothes;
note also the peculiar use of yellow instead of white over red backgrounds (guang circles, red ribbons)

The "light" cards are referred to as guang (i.e. the reading of the Chinese character), the "ribbons" as don, the "trash" cards as pi, and all the others are named after what they feature.
In the Korean version, the relation between the last two families (Paulownia and Willow) and the months of November and December is reversed, compared to the scheme used in Japan, where this variant of the standard ordering is known, yet rarely adopted.

The game played with these cards is more often referred to as Godori, or Go-stop. Min-hwa-tu or Min-ha-to is a variant of the main game.
The rules for Korean Hwatu are practically identical to Japanese Hanafuda ones, both for the structure of the game and for the use of special combinations which give the players bonus points. Some of the latter, though, differ from the classic version.

cards from the Kwa-Do (i.e. Hwatu) deck
manufactured by U.S. Games System (USA)

Some external resources to the Korean game are:

  • the HWA-T'U page, in Andy Anderson's Games website;
  • the MINHATO page, in the same website;
  • MIN-HA-TO has pictures of the cards and information.

  • left: sample cards from the Hwatu deck available on board on Korean Air flights; the white backs and rims are an unusual feature

    right: curious hybrid edition from Korea, with Japanese graphic features (i.e. no Chinese glyph, with purple ribbons, blank spares, etc.), but printed on plastic cards, with red rims, glossy surface and texture in relief on the back, as a Korean Hwatu

    other pages in this gallery
    page 1
    historical and
    general notes
    page 2
    page 4
    page 5
    page 6
    page 7
    page 8
    page 9

    page 10


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