Hotsui Matsuri Day 4- Demystifying the traditional card game Hanafuda

Hey! Welcome to another day of Hotsui Matsuri! I’m super excited about this post because I, Star, finally get to talk about the love I have for this game! So I’ve been playing this game with my family for years. We don’t gamble… But you definitely can lose a lot of money playing this game. It gained some popularity when Summer Wars featured it as the battle to defeat the big bad. Some know it as a Korean card game you play in teams. While some know this game as something only the Yakuza play.


When western cards came to Japan in the mid-16th century by the Portuguese they created a set of cards to represent the months in a year. Due to the gambling nature of the game it was banned in the 1500s and resurfaced in the 1700s before disappearing again and then here to stay in the 1800s by Nintendo. Yes. NINTENDO.


So it’s actually a super simple game. The cards you have in your hand to use or flip from the deck to match the cards in the middle. The hard part comes when points and more poetic matches are involved. It becomes more of a strategic game and matching to get the highest points. When I was little my great-grandpa told me stories that relate to the matches so I wouldn’t forget.

All told from the samurai’s point of view: He sits under the cherry blossoms in the light of the moon/sun a heron comes to greet him. (The story can be altered to describe each new piece of scenery. Adding a rooster for the morning sun, the lord and his umbrella also known as the rain man, or drinking sake after a long day.) I like to imagine Kenshin in the Samurai X days of being the Bottousai, but that’s just me haha.

Each month is 4 cards all nature themed in some way. From sakura (cherry blossoms) to ume (plum blossoms), wisteria and chrysanthemums can be remixed in several different ways to gain points. In some versions, collecting all the cards in a season make points while in other versions the cards with no special feature are considered trash cards. I learned various different styles and enjoyed it all the same. My favorite Hyaku (100 point matches) often involved the featured golden animals. The pig, the rooster, the birds, the butterflies, the deer, the swallow and the jay.

Being that this is a pretty well-known game in Japan, you’ll find many references to the game and it’s iconic art style. My personal favorite one to point out was Ino, Shika, Cho from Naruto (Pig, Deer, Butterflies) from Naruto and the more recent reboot of Fruits Basket featured the 12 zodiac characters as their own months in the third ending song.

Then there’s the infamous, your one and only, your boy, our hanafuda earring kid… Tanjiro.

One of the most overlooked parts of demon slayer is it’s callback to hanafuda and its designs. I’m not saying I’m salty but I’m definitely irked that people don’t take the time to understand the artistic symbolism of the designs in the clothes, weapons, moves and overall homage to traditional Japanese art in this anime. NO JOKE, that’s why I watch it. I literally have no other reason.

ANYWAYS, I’m gonna end here before I end up on a rant about anime being mainstreamed again haha. There is one more day left of Hotsui Matsuri and I wish everyone a good Obon!




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