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Where to get hanafuda decks? You can often find them for auction at eBay, and I know a lovely little shop in Los Angeles' "Little Tokyo" district, and a spectacular shop in "big" Tokyo. If you ever go to Tokyo, you can click here to find great places to shop for games. Now that I've discovered Korean GO-STOP, I've found that decks are available at Korean supermarkets here in L.A. We have a big Koreatown here in L.A. - I've yet to explore all the supermarkets here. Watch this site for further developments.

You should check Bun-ka Do if you want to buy some hanafuda decks. They also have Japanese mah-jongg sets for sale.

You might still be able to get hanafuda at Kinokuniya bookstore in Little Tokyo Upstairs in Weller Court, near the Space Shuttle monument.

You can also check the shops in Japanese Village Plaza in the heart of Los Angeles' Little Tokyo. One store I used to have listed here no longer exists, but it's fun to walk around and check out the shops. The street is short, so it doesn't take long to shop it thoroughly.

If you want Korean cards (they're plastic instead of paper, and they come with extra joker cards), you can go to Koreatown and ask in any big grocery store. I'm serious. Korean grocery stores often carry hwa-tu. You might have to say "go-stope" (or "go-stoap" - put a long O sound in "stop").

Click here to post a hanafuda question on the Maj Exchange bulletin board. It would be great to get hanafuda questions on that board.

The Shogundo Playingcard Company is one publisher of hanafuda decks. Their decks come in different boxes (as shown below).

I suppose these pictures from the side of Shogundo packages may also indicate other available package designs:

As was mentioned before, another manufacturer of hanafuda decks is Nintendo, the videogame manufacturer. Nintendo offers hanafuda decks in three different boxes, which look like this:

The different wrappers denote different qualities (materials) of cards. The Napoleon wrappers contain the highest-quality (most expensive) cards. The Tengu (red-faced, big-nosed guy) wrappers contain the medium-quality cards. A word of warning: if you buy a deck of Nintendo cards with one of those three designs on the outside, you may need to make certain that the cards inside truly are hanafuda cards -- because, you see, Nintendo also offers two other kinds of cards, the same size as hanafuda. And they package those other cards in packages practically identical to the hanafuda packages!

The six cards shown above are called "Harifuda," and represent the numbers One through Six (left to right). There are seven of each card. I learned only a little about the game played with these cards (it's a much less interesting game than the hanafuda games, at least that's my opinion).

And here (below) is another type of cards. These are called Kabufuda.

(This photo is from the Nintendo website. If someone from Nintendo objects to my use of this image, I'll take my own photo of my own kabufuda deck and apologize.)

Koi-koi and other hanafuda games cannot be played with Harifuda or Kabufuda cards. You will probably only encounter these other styles of cards if you are hanafuda-shopping in Japan. If in doubt, you can always just point to the box and say to the store clerk, "Hanafuda?" If the clerk doesn't know, you can check on the box for these kanji characters:

The characters on the left are from a hanafuda deck. The characters on the right are from a harifuda deck. Make sure you're getting the right thing! Ask.

Another type of fun little cards available in Japan is "Irohakaruta."

The name Irohakaruta comes from "I Ro Ha," which is analogous to our "A B C." At the upper left of the picture you can see picture cards - one for each of the 48 letters of the Japanese alphabet. There are also 48 phrase cards (lower right) - each phrase begins with a letter of the alphabet. There are also 4 extra cards (making for a total of 100 cards in all). The cards are small, measuring 1-1/4" x 7/8". At the right is the box they come in; the big characters say (guess what): "Irohakaruta."

If you are enjoying these different kinds of cards, why not check out Mah-Jongg FAQ 7i, all about mah-jongg cards and kards.

But I digress - we were talking about hanafuda. For the sake of going into nauseating detail, here are a couple more pictures of the wrapper from a Nintendo hanafuda deck:

Here's a picture of a hanafuda deck entitled "Kwa-do":

I first learned of this deck (and got the pictures of it) from a newsgroup posting. The cards are not the standard Japanese size - they are instead standard Western playing-card size. The cards contain some printing indicating that they were made by Diamond.

Anyway, five of the Kwa-Do cards have a special symbol on them. This is the Chinese character for "Bright" - these are the twenty-point cards after all. Two cards have a Diamond logo on them. This is so that these cards can be used as jokers, a Korean practice. Two more things worth noting about this deck -- there are two copies of the Rain & Lightning card (one with Diamond logo, and one without - for when the card is or is not used as a gaji or joker - or as a "double-junk" card - see Korean Go-Stop. And there are two extra cards -- one with the Diamond logo and one with a big spade design. "Kwa-Do" (or is it "Hwa-Do" with a weird font) is available in the USA through US Game Systems, 179 Ludlow Street, Stamford CT 06902.

More about Kwa-Do, from the Maj Exchange Q&A bulletin board....

More about Go-Stop, from the Game Design Q&A bulletin board....

Since Hyun-Seok wrote me, I've been to Korea and seen this for myself! I've since written about Korean Go-Stop.

Korean hwa-tu (hanafuda cards) can be used to play Japanese mah-jongg, but Koreans use extra cards not included in Japanese decks. The following is about Japanese hanafuda (written before I'd learned so much about Korean cards).

Pictured below are the 49th ("blank") cards from two different Japanese hanafuda decks. The one on the left comes from a Nintendo deck. It's clearly stamped with the date of manufacture (1973, a decade before Nintendo started making electronic games) -- and an incomplete stamp of what appears to be the name of the inspector who checked the deck before it was wrapped for sale. It appears that the inspector's name is Takegawa (Bamboo River). Inspector Takegawa did fine by me -- I'm happy with the quality of my deck!

As for the characters on the card on the right, I don't know what it says, and I haven't tried to find out. I guess the word "blank" doesn't quite apply, though, huh? (~_^)

You may have noticed that the cards pictured here sometimes have a brown border and sometimes black. Japanese hanafuda decks come in two colors: brown or black. Players normally keep two decks. This way, the brown deck can be shuffling while the black deck is in play.

Here are some more examples of the writing that can be seen on the One Paulownia cards in various decks. Here (above) you can see the One Paulownias from the Shogundo Playingcard Company's deck. The 8-petaled motif on the yellow one is Shogundo's symbol. And below: the same cards, from a different Japanese deck.

You can see that only one of the cards has writing on it (its writing is identical to the writing on one of the Nintendo cards (below) -- and in comparison with the corresponding card in the Shogundo deck above, the first character is different (the last three characters are the same).

Each manufacturer of cards does something a little different. Don't get too worried about trying to determine what is special about any particular cards, if you are uncertain -- just play with them any way that you find fun.

The Mah-Jongg FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) #14 about Table Rules applies equally as well to Hanafuda. Click here to read it.   ...But then come back here, because you aren't quite finished yet! (^_^)


Hanafuda cards come from Japan. Many people play several varieties of different hanafuda games, having learned them by word of mouth or from translated rules. Each translator uses different terms, and so as you encounter different hanafuda information, you are likely to be confused by the disparity in terminology. This grid may just confuse you, or it may help you decipher other info you come across:



Mark's terms (1)

Kwa-Do's terms


Japanese terms




Pine tree





Cherry blossom (2)

Plum tree




Cherry blossom


Cherry tree





Purple Fern

Bushclover (3)

Black Beans

Fuji or Kuromame





Grass (4)

Ayame or Kusa








Bush clover

Red Fern

Colored bushclover (3)

Red Beans

Hagi or Akamame





Grass (4) or Bald Head

Susuki or Bozu









Stars (shaped)



Momiji or Shika



Grass (4)

Empress tree

Rain (5)

Yanagi or Ame




Rain (5)



Card value

Dave's terms

Hawaiian terms (6)

Sakura Taisen



1-point cards


Zero point cards




5-point cards


Ten point cards




10-point cards


Five point cards




20-point cards


20 point cards


Coins or Bright

Kwang (Korean)

Card descrip.

Japan Pubs.

Mark's terms

Other terms



Purple ribbon

Blue tanzaku


Blue tan


Aoi tan

Poetry ribbon

Red tanzaku


Signed red tan


Akai tan

Plain red ribbon






SakĀE cup

Wine cup













Grass man




Yellow December


Yellow taro-leaf











1. Mark Hashimoto has programmed a small hanafuda game (it's not Koi-koi, it's the Hawaiian game of Higo Bana); his game comes on two floppies and costs $5. See

2. "Sakura" means "Cherry blossom" so it is obviously incorrect to have both a "cherry blossom" suit and a "sakura" suit.

3. The April and July flowers are not similar -- they are not both ferns, and they are not both clovers. They're not really "beans" either, but that's beside the point. Observe that the Wisteria branches hang down whereas the Bush Clover branches stick up.

4. Note that three different suits are referred to as "grass" by various sources. If you play against someone who learned the game elsewhere, just recognize that the two of you may use differing terminologies (and different rules too, of course). Don't fight about the terminology -- get over it, and play!

5. Here's another conflicting term. Other sources consistently refer to November (not December) as "rain," due to the umbrella held by the poet in the November twenty -- and you'll recall that the November Junk card is called "rain and lightning."

6. Under the rules of the Hawaiian game of "Higo Bana," the cards have different point values -- the fives and tens are swapped in value.

If you are enjoying these hanafuda cards, why not check out Mah-Jongg FAQ 7i, all about mah-jongg cards and kards.

Click to go to the next page: Hanafuda Links

Copyright 2000-2018 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author. The Nintendo name is a trademark of Nintendo Co. Ltd.