Etori / Kakeya Toranpu

This page is based on a contribution from Akagiri Yuji, with some additional information from Kuromiya Kimihiko.

Introduction

Kakeya Toranpu ("Kakeya" Trump) is a trick-taking card game that is played only the small town Kakeya, which is now part of the City of Unnan, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. (The Japanese word "toranpu" derives from "trump" but means playing-card.) Although this game is called "Kakeya Toranpu" externally, within the town it is called Etori (picture taking) but note that the name Etori can also refer to other games of this family, such as Kan. Its basic rules are very similar to the classic game of Etori played in the Meiji period (1868 to 1912) and described in Japanese card game books in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, the version now played in Kakeya has an improved scoring system, and special methods of dealing and choosing trumps that are not found in other Japanese card games.

According to local tradition, the game was brought to Kakeya in the mid 18th century by a doctor who learned it during his studies in Nagasaki, the only city in Japan where foreign trade was permitted at that time.

This page first describes the modern game of Kakeya Toranpu or Etori, after which there is a section about the classic game of Etori on which it is based.

Kakeya Toranpu

Players

There are 4 or 6 players in fixed partnerships of two players. Partners sit opposite each other. The cards are dealt by both members of one partnership, called the "Kubariban" or dealers. There are always 4 active players; in the 6 player game, the dealers don't play.

In a 6 player game, seats are chosen by drawing from a set of lottery sticks on which numbers 1 through 6 are written. The player who draws number 1 stick can sit anywhere. The player who draws number 2 stick sits to the right of him, and so on. The partnerships are number 1 and 4, number 2 and 5, and number 3 and 6. The first dealers are number 3 and 6.

In a 4 player game, the lottery sticks have numbers 1 through 4. Seats are determined as in the 6-player game. The partnerships are number 1 and 3, and number 2 and 4. The first dealers are number 2 and 4.

For the second and subsequent deals, the dealers are the losers of the previous hand. Thus in the 6 player game the winners of the previous hand play against the previous dealers, and the previous losers deal.

Cards and Counters

A standard 52 card pack is used. The cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.

Aces, Kings, Queens, and Jacks of all suits are called "Egara" or picture cards. There are 16 picture cards. The objective in this game is to take as many picture cards as possible.

Also, before starting the game, each partnership is given five Go stones or other chips or counters, for keeping score.

Trumps

Trumps are called "Kiri".

For the first deal, the trump suit is spades, unless the dealers decide to change it, which they can do before any player picks up the dealt cards.

For the second and subsequent deals, the trump suit is same as that in previous deal unless changed by the dealers. In a 4-player game either of the new dealers can change the trump suit, but in a 6-player game, it is the previous dealers who have the right to change the trump suit if they wish.

Since in all cases the trump suit is fixed before any of the players see their cards, there is no tactical reason to change trumps.

Rensho

"Rensho" is the Ace of Spades unless spades are trumps. When spades are trumps, "Rensho" is the Ace of Clubs.

If Rensho is played, it alway wins even if any trumps are played. But for the purposes of following suit it belongs to its original suit, that is, Rensho counts as a club if it is the ace of clubs, and as a spade if it is the ace of spades.

Deal

The dealers divide the pack of cards between them, taking about half each, and shuffle. Either of the dealers may begin the deal, dealing the cards one at a time counterclockwise into four face down piles. When the first dealer runs out of cards, he points to the pile which is due to receive the next card, and the other dealer continues from that place, so that when he has finished each pile has 13 cards. The card which was dealt last is called "Kirijimai" or the last card.

The pile including the last card is taken by the nearer player of the the following partnership:

  • in the 6-player game:
    • in the first deal, the partners to the right of dealers
    • in the second and subsequent deals: the dealers of the previous deal
  • in the 4-player game: the dealers

Then the active player to the right of the one who took the pile with the last card takes the next pile to the right of it, and so on.

Play

In a 4-player game one of the non-dealers leads to the first trick. In the first deal of a 6-player game one of the players to the left of dealers leads; in the second and subsequent deals of a 6-player game, one of the winners of the previous deal leads first.

Either of the partners may lead. So the partners talk briefly to decide which of them will lead. They must not exchange any information about the cards in their hands: they can only indicate whether they prefer to lead or to let the other partner do so.

Any card may be led. The other players, in anticlockwise order, each play a card to the trick. Players must follow suit by playing a card of the same suit as the card led if they can; a player with no card of the suit led may play any card.

If a trick contains Rensho, it wins the trick. Otherwise the trick is won by the highest trump in it - or if it contains no trump, by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

Rensho belongs not to the trump suit but to its original suit, and there is no special rule about when Rensho can be played.

The cards in completed tricks kept face down in the center of the table in a single heap, except for picture cards (the scoring cards), which are placed face up near the one of the partners who took them.

Scoring

The partners who take 9 or more of the 16 scoring cards are the winners. If each partnership takes 8 scoring cards, the partners who don't have the Rensho win.

The winners receive the Go stones from the losers according to the number of scoring cards taken and the cards they held in their hands at the start of the play:

If the winning partners had no aces in their hands, they receive 4 stones. If they had one or two aces, but not the Rensho nor the ace of trumps, they receive 2 stones.

Otherwise, they get 1 stone if they took fewer than 12 scoring cards, they get 2 stones if they took from 12 to 15 scoring cards, or they get 4 stones if they take all 16 scoring cards.

End of Game

The game ends when a partnership has no Go stones. In a 4-player game the other partnership wins.

In a 6-player game the winners are the partnership that has most stones when one of the partnerships has none. If the losing partnership doesn't have enough stones to pay for the final hand, their sore goes negative and the receiver scores as if they received enough stones. If two partnerships have the same highest score, the game is draw between these partnerships.

Variation

The standard scoring schedule for Kakeya Toranpu is as follows:

number of scoring cards taken8-1112-1516
with no aces4 points4 points-
without Rensho and the ace of trumps (but with 1 or 2 other aces)2 points2 points-
otherwise1 point2 points4 points

But the following improved table used by the game circle "Nakayoshi Mura" is recommended by Akagiri Yuji:

number of scoring cards taken8-1112-1516
with no aces3 points4 points-
without Rensho and the ace of trumps (but with 1 or 2 other aces)2 points3 points-
otherwise1 point2 points4 points

Etori

Etori is described in several card game books from the middle of Meiji Period. There were evidently several versions, but unfortunately the descriptions of some of them are incomplete. The classic game of Etori differs from modern Kakeya Toranpu as follows:

  • There are four players in fixed partnerships and just one dealer, who deals cards to the players one at a time. According to the earliest descriptions it was played counterclockwise, but some books say that the game was played clockwise. If playing counterclockwise the player to the right of the dealer leads to the first trick; if playing clockwise the player to dealer's left.
  • According to some accounts, the trump suit is hearts for the first deal, then diamonds, clubs, hearts and so on, rotating between these three suits. Spades are never trumps.
  • Other descriptions say that after the cards are shuffled and cut the bottom card of the pack is shown, and this determines trumps. If the bottom card is a spade, the shuffle and cut must be repeated until a different suit is found. The trump at the bottom of the pack will be dealt last and therefore belongs to the dealer.
  • The highest card is the Ace of Spades, which is called Supekyureishon (Speculation) or Superior. According to earlier books it is in played as a spade, just like the Rensho in Kakeya Toranpu.
  • One later account (Sekai Yûgihô Taizen, 1907) says that the Speculation can be played to any trick even if the player could have followed suit; however, it must be played when spades are led if the holder has no other spades, and when Speculation is led the other players must follow with spades.
  • If both partnerships take 8 scoring cards, the result is a draw: neither scores.
  • There are several methods of scoring. In some versions the winning partnership just scores 1 point, no matter how many scoring cards they take. In some, the winners score 1 point for each card they take in excess of 8. According to a few books, the winners subtract 7 from the number of acoring cards taken and score the result, so that the minimum score for a hand that is not drawn is 2 points.
  • Two accounts mention a variant in which an extra card, the "best" or "jiyokâ" (joker), is added to the pack; this card beats all other cards, even the Speculation, and can be played to any trick. This may be an ancestor of the joker rule in Kan. It is not stated whether some other card should be removed from the pack to reduce it to 52 cards, and it is unclear what happens if the joker is led.
  • One account says, without explaining fully, that although the Ace of Spades is highest, it can be beaten by the two (presumably of spades). This may be a precursor of the "same two" rule in Napoleon.

Other Etori / Kakeya Toranpu web sites

Yuji Akagiri's game farm site has an English page on Kakeya Toranpu, on which this page is mainly based.

Here is a Japanese Kakeya Toranpu web site, published by the City of Unnan.