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Hanafuda Instructions

What is Hanafuda?

Hanafuda (花札) literally translates to "flower card" and has been around since the mid-16th century after playing cards were introduced to Japan by the Portuguese.

The most famous game played is called Koi Koi, meaning "come on, come on" with Hawaiian variations of the game in the US called Sakura. Here is an excellent guide for the Hawaiian variation. Koi Koi is essentially a matching game where you try to pair cards up with either flower suits, tanzaku (ribbon), animals or "bright" cards. After 6-12 rounds, the player who has earned the most points wins!

Hanafuda decks are made up of 48 cards, split into 12 different hiki (flower suits), inspired by the 12 seasons (monthly florals) with 4 cards in each hiki.

Below is a chart of our deck that showcases how each card is assigned:


To decide on the dealer or oya, play jankenpon (or rock paper scissors). You can also roll some dice, choose by age, etc. If you want to go really traditional, you can use this method:

  • Everyone draws one card. Whichever player draws from the earliest month is assigned the role of oya. For reference, the above chart starts with matsu in January, going left to right, and down to end at the 12th month, kiri in December.
  • If two players draw from the same month/floral set, the player with the higher value card becomes oya. To determine card values, see table of yakus below. The other player(s) is called ko which means "child."
  1. The oya deals eight (8) cards, face-up to the ko.
  2. Oya deals eight (8) cards to themself, face down.
  3. The players add eight (8) more cards to the “field” in two rows of four, face-up.
  4. Set the rest of the cards aside in a draw pile.
  5. Both players check all the cards in the field for “instant” wins.
    • If all the cards match each other (aka “a full month”), the players cancel the round and deal the cards once more.
    • If ¾ of a month has been dealt, then three of the cards are set aside in one stack, and both players reveal a card. Whichever one plays the final card wins that month.
  6. The game then begins. In turn, each player matches a card in their hand with one in the field from the same month.
  7. They can also add a card that matches none of the cards
  8. If there are any matches, the player wins that match.
  9. However, if they want to double down, they can say koi koi and receive another card to get multiple matches.

If you'd like to see instructions from Nintendo, who actually started off as producers for the card game in the late Edo era, they also have a set of instructions here.