What is the Hanafuda Card Game? Learn What it is and How to Play!

How many people here like to play video games made by Nintendo? I sure do! I really enjoyed playing Mario games, but The Legend of Zelda was always my favorite.

You may be thinking right now “why’s this guy talking about Nintendo? The question I asked was what is the Hanafuda card game?”

You see, the thing is… they are connected!

When Nintendo was incorporated back in 1889, they were not making video games. They were actually in the playing card business!

Originally Nintendo made and sold handcrafted Hanafuda cards. The name Hanafuda (花札) is a combination of the word for “flower” () and the word for “cards” (). You’ll see where the name comes from below when you see what the cards look like.

Pretty much all Japanese people know how to play Hanadufa, but if you’re from outside of Japan you’ve probably never heard of it! But I’m going to tell you what it is, how to play it, and then where you can play it too!

Let’s begin!

How to Play Hanafuda

Koi-Koi Setup

A Hanafuda deck has a total of 48 cards. When you divide them up, there are twelve suits in total, one for each month of the year, and four cards per suit. Within those four cards per suit, two of them are normal cards, and the other two are special cards.

You shuffle all the cards together and deal out eight cards, face up, between both players. Then each player gets their own eight cards dealt to them face down. This is for a two-player game. If there are four people, then you reduce the amount of cards that each person gets down to four each.

The dealer goes first. Then Play goes to the person on his or her left, and it continues on in that direction.  The active person matches one of the cards in his or her hand to one of the eight face-up cards in the center.

Then they flip the top card of the deck and ALSO try to match that with a card on the table. If they can’t make a match, then they just add the card from their hand (or the deck) to the middle with the other cards available to everyone.

The round ends when either the stock (deck) is empty, or the first player matches all of their cards and has none left. Then you add up points.

In case of a tie, victory goes to the dealer. Or the person who is the closest to the dealer’s left, if the dealer is not involved in the tie.

That’s probably the most common way to play Hanafuda, but there are lots of variants for both the rules of play, and scoring.

Where to Play

You can pick up a Hanafuda deck online at retailers like Amazon for a couple bucks. You can even get some official Nintendo ones as they still make Hanafuda cards! How cool is that?!

But if you just want to try it out for yourself, then you can play a game of it online for free –>  Play Hanafuda Online. 

Or there are also some free versions of the game for mobile devices that you can use.

Check it out for yourself and play a round if you’d like.

Have you ever played Hanafuda before? What other Japanese games have you played that you enjoyed? Let me know with a comment below!


4 thoughts on “What is the Hanafuda Card Game? Learn What it is and How to Play!”

  1. Wow- this sounds really cool. Crazy that Nintendo made card games. My mom really loves to try different card games. One of our favorites is a French card game we’ve played since I was young called Mille Bourne.

    I am sure she would love to try this one too!

    • Hey Courtney,

      I know, right?! I could hardly believe it myself when I first learned about Nintendo’s inception. It really is a crazy world we live in!

      I’ve never played Mille Bourne before, so I might just have to check that one out.

  2. I had never heard of this game before and definitely did not know that Nintendo used to make card games. From reading this article, I am very intrigued and will have to give it a try. I am more into gaming online than card games but am always up for trying something new.

    • Hey, what’s up Stan? Yeah, it’s not something that most people outside of Japan really know about. But it’s a fun social game to play with friends or family. Great to play on the phone too when you’re waiting on something!


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