Card games in Japan

Games with the international pack

  • Dai fugo (very rich man), also known as Dai hin min (very poor man), is a popular climbing game played with the standard 52 card pack plus jokers.
  • Kan and Kakeya Toranpu are partnership point-trick games played with the 52-card pack. They are sometimes known as Etori (picture taking).
  • Napoleon - nothing to do with the British card game called Napoleon or Nap, but a point-trick game with bidding, related to Etori and played with the 52 card pack, optionally with a joker.
  • Two-Ten-Jack is a more distant relation of Etori, with negative points for certain cards.
  • Shichi-narabe (seven in a row) - a variation of Fan Tan, played with a 52 card pack, often with a joker added.
  • Seven Bridge - a rummy game.
  • Page One is a kind of trick-taking game, in which a player unable to follow suit must draw a card. There is also American Page One - an eights game.
  • 51 is a commerce game with five-card hands, in which players exchange cards between their hands and a face up pool, and try to collect a high scoring hand in a single suit.
  • Buta no shippo (pig's tail) is a children's game played with the standard 52 card pack in which the aim is to get rid of cards.
  • There are several other children's games: for example Dauto is a version of I Doubt It, Shinkei-suijaku is Concentration (Memory, Pelmanism) and Baba-nuki is Old Maid.

Mah Jong

Mah Jong is very popular in Japan, and is played in several variations.

Flower cards

Hanafuda (flower cards) - a special 48 card pack with four cards representing each month or flower - are used for several fishing games, notably Hachi-hachi (88). There is also a banking game Kabu (nine), which is similar to Baccarat, and is played with 40 of the cards, the ten flowers representing numbers from one to ten.

Cards based on old Portuguese designs

Unsun is a trick-taking game played with a special 75 card 5-suited pack which has evolved from old Portuguese designs. The game almost became obsolete but is now recognised and continued as a cultural treasure.

Mekuri fuda was the name of several types of 48 card pack, also loosely based on old Portuguese cards. These have become almost obsolete in the last 50 years, but one type - Komatsu - is still used at Yafune in Fukui prefecture to play Kakkuri - a stops-like game. See KUROMIYA Kimihiko: "The last komi game of Japan" in The Playing-Card Vol 33 No 4, pp232-235.

Kabu fuda was the term for several designs of pack consisting of four copies of a single ten-card suit (either batons or coins) - nine numerals and one court card. Often one or two bonus cards are added, and one of the fours and one of the threes is overprinted as a bonus card. It was presumably used for a Baccarat-like game, similar to the Kabu played with flower cards (see above).

Tehonbiki consist several sets of numeral cards from one to six, usually of the coins suit. They are used for a banking game, in which the banker selects a card from one to six and the players guess which card the banker has chosen.

100 poets

This is a pack of 200 cards: 100 of them have texts of poems and the other 100 depict the corresponding poets. There is a game which involves matching the poets correctly to the authors. halves correctly to form complete poems. Another game, called Ao Kammuri (or Iro Kammuri) is s simple type I beating game played with just the 100 picture cards, which are divided into six groups (ladies, priests, etc.)

Chess cards

Goita is a game played with 32 cards depicting pieces for Shogi (Japanese chess) or with tablets resembling actual Shogi pieces.

This page is maintained by John McLeod (   © John McLeod, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015. Last updated: 17th August 2022