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    Hanafuda Card Games

    Concept »

    Card games played using a style of Japanese playing cards known as hanafuda, which include 48 cards split into the 12 months of the year.

    Short summary describing this concept.

    Hanafuda Card Games last edited by Nes on 06/26/23 08:48PM View full history


    Hanafuda Card Games refer to several games that make use of Japanese playing cards known as hanafuda (花札, "flower cards"). These are typically smaller and stiffer than Western playing cards, with 48 cards in total, split into 12 suits of four cards each, with each suit representing one of the 12 months of the year.

    Although Japanese playing cards were believed to have existed since the 16th century, hanafuda is believed to have existed since the 18th century. In modern times, it is the most well-known out of all playing cards of Japanese origin and is one of the staple Japanese "table games" (alongside shogi and go). Some games using hanafuda received multiple video game adaptations, most of which are exclusive to Japan. These games were commonly found in table game compilations, some of which received overseas releases (including the Clubhouse Games series). There were also some arcade game adaptations, some of which were "strip hanafuda" eroge.

    One interesting thing of note is the origins of the video game company Nintendo, which was originally founded in 1889 as a handmade manufacturer of hanafuda, later expanding into other types of playing cards and toys before transitioning into electronic and video games. Playing cards can still be purchased from Nintendo, including special hanafuda with designs from their breakout Mario series (which can also be used in Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics).


    Each suit has a different arrangement and represent seasonal flowers. There are four types of cards:

    • Kasu, also known as "chaff" or "junk", generally show plain representations of the seasonal flowers. These are the most common, with a standard deck including 24 kasu cards.
    • Tanzaku, also known as "poetry slips" or "poetry ribbons", show paper ribbons on top of the seasonal flowers. A standard deck includes 10 tanzaku cards.
    • Tane, also known as "seeds", "animals", or "variety", generally show animals. A standard deck includes 9 tane cards.
    • Hikari, also known as "lights" or "brights", show special designs. A standard deck includes 5 hikari cards.

    Generally, each suit has two kasu card, one tanzaku card, and one tane card.

    • January cards show pine shrubs. Instead of a tane card, it has a hikari card showing a crane. Its Tanzaku ribbon shows poetry.
    • February cards show plum blossoms. Its Tanzaku ribbon shows poetry.
    • March cards show cherry blossoms. Instead of a tane card, it has a hikari card showing a hanging curtain for cherry blossom viewing. Its Tanzaku ribbon shows poetry.
    • April cards show wisteria branches.
    • May cards show iris plants.
    • June cards show peony plants. Its Tanzaku ribbon is blue.
    • July cards show bush clovers.
    • August cards show sasuki grass. Instead of a tanzaku card, it has a hikari card showing a full moon.
    • September cards show crysanthemum plants. Its Tanzaku ribbon is blue. Rather than an animal, its Tane card shows a sake cup.
    • October cards show maple leaves. Its Tanzaku ribbon is blue.
    • November cards show willow trees. It is notable for having only one kasu card depicting a thunderstorm. It also has a hikari card showing the calligrapher Ono no Michikaze.
    • December cards show paulownia branches. It is notable for having no tanzaku or tane cards, instead having a third kasu card (with a multi-colored background) and one hikari card showing a phoenix.

    Common Games


    One of the "standard" hanafuda card games, Hana-Awase (花合わせ, "Flower Arrangement") is a "fishing game" where players take turns using cards from their hand and the overall draw pile to form matches with cards from the table, moving them to the player's scoring area.

    In each round, the current dealer shuffles the cards, distributes cards to each player, and places cards face-up for the table. Depending on the number of players, the game uses a different system for hand size and initial table amount (8/8 for two-player, 7/6 for three-player, and 5/8 for four-player). If all four cards of the same month are on the table, the cards are re-dealt. Otherwise, the rest of the cards are stacked face-down to form the draw pile.

    Players then take turns choosing a single card from their hand and plays it on the table. Normally the card remains on the table, but if the month matches with the month of another card on the table, both are taken by the player for scoring. If it matches those of two cards, the player chooses which of the other cards to take. If all four cards of the same month are on the table, the player takes all of them. The player then draws a card from the pile and plays it in the same way before passing to the next player.

    The game ends when all players run out of cards and the draw pile is empty. Players then calculate their overall score based on the composition of their scoring cards, with each kasu giving 1 point, each tankazu giving 5 points, each tane giving 10 points, and each hikari giving 20 points. Each player then calculate their special sets, or "yaku", for additional points. When gambling, scoring is zero-sum, with players winning or losing points to other players based on how much they scored. Otherwise, players just earn points based on how much they scored. The dealer then switches to the player who scored the most that round.

    While there are digital adaptation of Hana-Awase, there are not as many as its more-popular successor Koi-Koi.


    The most popular hanafuda game throughout the world is Koi-Koi (こいこい), which is a two-player variant of Hana-Awase with updated rules that focus on risk-reward play.

    Its name comes from the game's signature rule where, once a player forms a new yaku (or improves an existing one), players have the option to either end the round early (by calling shōbu) or continue the round (by calling koi-koi). Continuing the round allows the player to potentially earn more points, but risks forfeiting their winnings if the round ends in an exhaustive draw or if the other player calls shōbu. Other rule differences include:

    • Only the player who ends the round gets their winnings, and scoring is based on yaku alone. Their winnings double in points if they score 7 points worth of yaku in the round. Their winnings also double if the opposing player declared koi-koi at any point in the round.
    • On the initial deal, if a player gets either all four cards of the same month or four pairs of cards, they declare it to win the round automatically for 6 points.

    Like in Hana-Awase, there are several variations of Koi-Koi, usually affecting the scoring. Some rule changes include how many times koi-koi can be called (with Nintendo's rules saying that it can only be called once per round, with players forced to call shōbu on the next opportunity), whether or not the special yaku is valid, and whether or not to only include the highest-value yaku in the winnings.

    It is the most common hanafuda card game used in digital game adaptations.


    The most common yaku rules for Koi-Koi include the following:


    • Five Lights (五光, gokō) - 15 pts. - All five hikari cards.
    • Four Lights (四光, shikō) - 8 pts. - Only four hikari cards, not including November's.
    • Four Lights with Rain (雨スり四光, amesuri-shikō) - 7 pts. - Only four hikari cards, with November's.
    • Three Lights (三光, sankō) - 6 pts. - Only three hikari cards, not including November's.


    • Boar-Deer-Butterflies (猪鹿蝶, ino-shika-chō) - 5 pts. - Boar (July tane), deer (October tane), and butterfly (June tane) cards. Additional tane cards grant an extra point each.
    • Tane (タネ) - 1 pt. - Any five tane cards. Additional tane cards grant an extra point each.


    • Combined Red and Blue Tanzaku (赤短・青短の重複, akatan, aotan no chōfuku) - 10 pts. - All poetry tanzaku cards (January, Feburary, and March) and blue tanzaku cards (June, September, and October). Additional tanzaku cards grant an extra point each.
    • Red Tanzaku (赤短, akatan) - 5 pts. - All poetry tanzaku. Additional tanzaku cards grant an extra point each.
    • Blue Tanzaku (青短, aotan) - 5 pts. - All blue tanzaku. Additional tanzaku cards grant an extra point each.
    • Tanzaku (短冊) - 1 pt. - Any five tanzaku cards. Additional tanzaku cards grant an extra point each.


    • Kasu (カス) - 1 pt. - Any ten kasu cards. The sake cup (September's tane card) also counts. Additional kasu cards grant an extra point each.


    • Cherry-Blossom Viewing (花見酒, hanami-zake) - 5 pts. - Pair that includes the sake cup (September's tane card) and March's hikari card.
    • Moon Viewing (月見酒, tsukimi-zake) - 5 pts. - Pair that includes the sake cup (September's tane card) and August's hikari card.
    • Season (月札, tsukifuda) - 4 pts. - All four cards of the month corresponding to the current round, if 12 rounds are being played.


    Hanafuda are often used as a substitute for games that make use of kabufuda (株札, "stock cards"), primarily with the gambling game Oicho-Kabu (おいちょかぶ, "Eight-Nine"). Kabufuda are also a Japanese type of playing card with a similar card stock, and consist of 40 cards split into designs representing the numbers 1-10. As kabufada is not that common, hanafuda can easily be used as a substitute, with each number corresponding to the numerical month and the last two months discarded.

    Oicho-Kabu is similar to the Western card games baccarat and blackjack, and is a "banking game" where multiple players play against a dealer that controls the game. The objective of the game is to bet on whether each of the four "hands" are ranked higher than the dealer's hand, with the rank based on the last digit of the hand's sum (for example, "9" is ranked higher than "10", as "9" is greater than "0"). After dealing a "dead card" to each player (to give them more insight to the deck), the dealer draws five cards face-up to represent the first card of each of the four player hands and one dealer hand, and has each other player making bets on each player hand. The dealer then draws the second card of each hand face-down, allowing the players to look at them if they bet on it and asking if they would like to place a third card for the hand (similar to a "hit" in blackjack). The showdown happens, and the dealer compares their hand with each other hand, distributing the winnings based on the winning hands. There are some special hands that win automatically.

    As one of Japan's well-known gambling games, Oicho-Kabu is known for its cultural associations with the criminal underworld, with the term "yakuza" based on one of the worst possible hands (8, 9, and 3, or "ya-ku-sa"). This game has some digital adaptations with hanafuda or kabufuda, such as the Like a Dragon and Gionbana series.


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