What is Hanafuda?
On the face of each card is a depiction of flowers, tanzaku, subjects (animals and other objects), or culturally-significant scenes.The main game was a trick-taking game intermediate in evolution between Triunfo and Ombre. After Japan closed off all contact with the Western world in 1633, foreign playing cards were banned.
During prohibition, gambling with cards remained highly popular which led to disguised card designs. Each time gambling with a card deck of a particular design became too popular, the government banned it, which then prompted the creation of a new design. This cat-and-mouse game between the government and rebellious gamblers resulted in the creation of increasingly abstract and minimalist regional patterns (地方札). These designs were initially called Yomi Karuta after the popular Poch-like game of Yomi which was known by the 1680s.
The earliest known reference to Hana Awase (a previous version of hanafuda) is from 1816 when it was recorded as a banned gambling tool.
Unlike earlier decks it consists of 12 months (suits) divided into four rank-like categories.Though they can still be used for gambling, its structure and design is less convenient than other decks such as Kabufuda. In the Meiji period, playing cards became tolerated by the authorities.