Hikari's Food/Japanophile and Other Interesting Stuff blog

Shpadoinkle! ~ Hanafuda “Flower Cards”

on December 16, 2012

Hello, All! I know, it’s been a while, but we’re gonna open up with a new Shpadoinkle!

Have you heard of Hanafuda (花札)? To me, they’re DEFINITELY Shpadoinkle!

This is a set of traditional Japanese playing cards. The name literally means “flower cards” and this is due to the wonderful flower patterns on the cards.


Basic Hanafuda: There are 48 cards in a typical deck, with 12 “months” each represented by a flower or plant. Each month has four cards, with two “plain” or “normal” cards and a ribbon card, special card, or animal card (there are a couple of exceptions). Depending on the type of card, you match cards of the same ” month” and try to get points. You can collect ribbons, “brights”, animals, and other combos for points. I’ll give some links to more detailed instructions at the bottom of the post.

The cards are known as “Hwa-to” in Korea and are also used for games in Hawaii under different names, but are generally recognized as hanafuda.

I first heard of hanafuda years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to learn to play. What I discovered is there are numerous games and versions of these games that can be played.

The rules may seem complicated at first, but once you get the concept behind the game (Koi-Koi) and learn which cards are worth what, it’s a lot of fun. At first, I learned to play on my tablet. I found a decent Android app for playing the game Koi-Koi for free, of course, but if you like the game you can spend a couple of dollars to help support the developer.

Interestingly enough, most of the Japanese people I know don’t know how to play any games with hanafuda. This may have to do with a connection to the Yakuza as they became popular for gambling in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. Oh, just a little known fact, the cards became popular for gambling due to mass production from the Nintendo gaming company, which first got its start by making playing cards!

After classes were finished for the quarter, I wanted to play with someone other than a computer. With the hopes of teaching Hubby, I went on eBay and found a decently priced deck for a little under $10 (after shipping). they’re not fancy, just thick cardboard. Wow, these guys are TINY! (about maybe 1/2 the size of a normal playing card) Not to mention very hard to shuffle due to their thickness. If anyone decides to learn to play, I suggest the hybrid cards that double as normal “trump” cards, as they will be easier to handle, shuffle, and are multipurpose.

The multipurpose version

The multipurpose version

Although, after finding out a special set from Nintendo existed, featuring beloved Mario characters, I had to buy another set for collector’s purposes. I have yet to break the seal, my otaku heart cries when I think about it. Maybe I’ll need to buy another deck so I can use them, they’re so CUTE!

Just couldn't resist these cuties!

Just couldn’t resist these cuties!

So, this is what I’ve been doing in my spare time, when not writing reports or essays or completing mounds of homework. I really think I would be to the halfway mark in NaNoWriMo if I could have used just my school work towards the total. Seriously.

But anyway, I will write a more in-depth article if this generates enough interest. For now, however, I will leave some links at the bottom for those interested in learning more about this card set or the games that use them. (And if anyone gets the Android version I linked and wants to play, let me know. I’d be happy to have a human playing partner!)


Android Free version of Koi-Koi

A whole website dedicated to hanafuda (and their flash-game is pretty decent, too!)

This flash game is pretty good, but doesn’t use as many of the combos as I’d like  (gotta have my Hanami/Tsukimi zake!)

If you have plenty of Nintendo games, consider saving points to get the Mario deck (if you don’t, just use eBay).

Hawaiian version, including Solitaire option and some of the card symbolism meanings.

I definitely feel that using the Android and computer versions first will help you learn the rules and see if it’s fun before you decide to invest in a read card deck.

Need more info? Feel free to just Google or Bing: Hanafuda, rules, etc.


6 responses to “Shpadoinkle! ~ Hanafuda “Flower Cards”

  1. angrygaijin says:

    Haha, no way! Nintendo makes these too, eh? I’ve never heard of them! I can’t even imagine how you’d play a game with them~~

    • Actually, I just met up with one of my girl friends and played a modified game where we could see each other’s cards so I could teach her the rules. She thought it was great fun and I finally got my human playing partner.

  2. Cary says:

    I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for.
    Do you offer guest writers to write content for you?

    I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome blog!

  3. Happy Yuan says:

    Yes, many Japanese, myself included, don’t know how to play Hanafuda. I can’t remember the rule(>_<)

  4. online radio says:

    My brother suggested I might like this website. He
    was totally right. This post actually made my day.

    You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

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