Can you guess a country by its playing cards?
The most interesting card patterns are in China, Japan, India, Germany, Spain and England. The cards there are so different, they are easily recognized.

Japan Cards

In Japan, the playing cards are known as Karuta. There are also several different names by which the cards are known, for example fuda, which is used for cards that are used for gambling. Several different types of playing cards have been used in Japan, among which the most common are the Flower cards which are known as Hana garuta, which are used for gambling.

The flower cards are used in a flower matching game. These cards are made from cardboard and are usually quite small. The cards are painted in different colored pictures. One pack of such cards would have 48 cards in all that are divided into twelve different sets of four cards which are also known as suits.

Each of these suits is marked with flowers and various other patterns which are suited to the twelve months in a year. Each card in these suits is of different values from one to twenty. Every suit has two cards which only have emblems are carry one point. There is one card in every suit which has a value of five and bears a picture of a paper or wood which was used in the earlier days for writing, these are known as Tanzaku.

The Hanafunda deck

A Hanafunda deck was found in 1972 and is believed to be one of the earliest decks in Japan; however, the cards are not very different than the ones that are being used today in the country. The written evidences of the history in Japan only began in the 5th century. It is believed that Japanese culture was influenced by Korean and Chinese cultures from as long back as the 7th century and several Japanese card games can be traced back to ancient Chinese or Korean games.

Japanese card game

One such game is the matching game which was based on chances and luck. The Japanese variety of this game makes use of sea shells on which natural objects have been hand painted. From the 12th to the 19th centuries, which was the feudal period in Japan, there were almost no outside influences in the Japanese culture. Until the Jesuits arrived in Japan in 1543 and were allowed to stay, the country remained aloof from the western countries. The traders from Portugal only arrived in Japan in 1597, and it was then that various western cultures and traditions were introduced in Japan. The playing cards were one such concept which was brought to Japan in the 16th century. The Japanese soon took to the playing cards but they did not use the symbols or the numbers that were commonly used in European countries. Instead, they modified them like they did the matching game and created their own playing cards which were painted by hand and had various designs of birds, flowers and natural scenes.

The book “The Flower card Game” about Hanafunds which was published in 1970 by the Japan Publications asserts the fact that it was only in the 16th century that playing cards were first introduced in the country by the Portuguese traders.

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