Games played with Flower Cards

Flower cards consist come in a pack of 48. For each month of the year there are four cards showing a flower or plant associated with that month. Most packs also have a 49th (blank) card which is not used in the game, except in certain cases to decide who must drop out when there is a large number of players. The cards themselves are much smaller and thicker than normal western playing-cards. A 48 card pack is illustrated below.

Flower cards probably originated in Japan are used in Japan, Korea and Hawaii, usually for games of the fishing group. At the start of the game, some cards are face up on the table, half of the remaining cards are dealt out to the players and the rest are in a face down stock. For example, with three players you would begin with 6 cards face up, 7 in the hand of each player and a stock of 21. At your turn you play a card from your hand, and if it matches a face-up card (being the same month), you capture both cards. Then you turn over the top card of the stock, and again if this matches a face-up card you capture both cards. If either the card you play or the card you turn up from the stock does not match anything, it is left face up on the table to be captured in future. In some games the lone 1-point card of the November/Willow/Rain suit (known as Gaji or Onifuda or lightning) can be used as a wild card to match any other card.

The object is to capture scoring cards, and also to collect in your captures certain sets of cards which give you an extra bonus. The bonus sets vary depending on the specific game being played. The scores for the individual cards are shown in the table below. There are at least two different systems of scoring the cards. In Japanese and Korean scoring the cards which show scrolls (known as tanzaku or tti) are worth 5 points, and those with animals, birds or other objects score 10 or 20. In Hawaii, the 5 and 10 point cards are reversed - the scrolls are worth 10 and the less valuable animals and objects are only worth 5.

In Japan the cards are called Hanafuda (flower cards) and the fishing games played with them include Hachi-hachi (88), Koi Koi, Hana Awase and Mushi. The cards are also used in Japan for a group of banking games similar to Baccarat and known as Kabu (nine). In Kabu games the months January to October take on the values 1 to 9, and the November and December cards are not used.

In Korea the cards are called Hwatu. The most popular game is Go Stop, and there is an older game known as Minhwatu.

In Hawaii, it seems that the cards are called Hanafuda as in Japan, but the game is called Sakura (Cherry) after the March suit or Higo Bana.

Here are rules for the popular Korean game Go Stop.

I intend to include detailed rules of several other flower card games on this site in future. Meanwhile here are some links to other sites with flower card game rules.

  • Graham Leonard's Hanafuda and Kabufuda site has rules for several Japanese games played with flower cards.
  • Andy Pollett's site has rules for Roppyaku-ken
  • Kyle Yamamoto's Hanafuda Online site promises to provide an online Hanafuda game in future, though at present (September 2007) it only contains images, names and scoring values of the cards.
  • Charlene Iramk's page has rules for Hanahuda, a flower card game played on the island of Palau.

Finally, here are the cards and their values. Note that the correspondence between flowers and the months of November and December are the reverse in Korea from Japan:

Japanese scoring20 points10 points5 points1 point
Hawaiian scoring20 points5 points10 points0 points
January
Pine
Matsu
pine - 20
pine - 5pine - 1 pine - 1
February
Plum
Ume

plum - 10plum - 5plum - 1 plum - 1
March
Cherry
Sakura
cherry - 20
cherry - 5cherry - 1 cherry - 1
April
Wisteria
Fuji

wisteria - 10isteria - 5wisteria - 1 wisteria - 1
May
Iris
Ayame

iris - 10iris - 5iris - 1 iris - 1
June
Peony
Botan

peony - 10peony - 5peony - 1 peony - 1
July
Clover
Hagi

clover - 10clover - 5clover - 1 clover - 1
August
Pampas
Susuki
pampaspampas - 10
pampas - 1 pampas - 1
September
Chrysanthemum
Kiku

chrysanthemum - 10chrysanthemum - 5chrysanthemum - 1 chrysanthemum - 1
October
Maple
Momiji

maple - 10maple - 5maple - 1 maple - 1
November (Japan)
December (Korea)
Rain or Willow
Yanagi
rain - 20rain - 10rain - 5rain - 1 Gaji
December (Japan)
November (Korea)
Paulownia
Kiri
paulownia - 20

paulownia - 1 paulownia - 1 paulownia - 1