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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

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Japan

30 Articles

Japanese playing cards include: 'Awase' or 'matching pairs' cards and Portuguese or Spanish-derived 'Dragon' type cards.

Japanese Playing Cards

Japanese playing cards include: 'Awase' or 'matching pairs' cards and Portuguese or Spanish-derived 'Dragon' type cards.

Japanese Playing Cards

Sanyo Ukiyo-E

Ukiyo-E deck by Nintendo for Sanyo Enterprise Co.

Sanyo Ukiyo-E

One Piece Hana Fuda

One Piece Hanafuda King card set published by Beverly Enterprises Inc, Tokyo, 2010

One Piece Hana Fuda

DRRR!!

DRRR!!, short for Durarara!!, is an anime adaptation of a Japanese light novel written by Ryohgo Narita.

DRRR!!

Mos Burger

Advertising deck for Mos Burger, one of the largest hamburger chains in Japan, 2015.

Mos Burger

Ainu culture

A terrific deck of cards made by Nintendo c.1979 with original designs on every card showing the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan.

Ainu culture

Nana Poker

Every card carries a different cartoon image in the Manga style, expressing moods and emotions.

Nana Poker

Hello Kitty

Waddington’s “Hello Kitty” themed deck produced in 2009.

Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty

“Hello Kitty” playing cards published by Sanrio, manufactured in China, 2013

Hello Kitty

Roaring Twenties

Roaring Twenties playing cards by Angel Playing Cards Co Ltd, Japan. 1980.

Roaring Twenties

Shapely

“Shapely” non-standard adult playing cards manufactured by Angel Playing Cards Co., Japan, 1980

Shapely

Black & White Whisky by Nintendo

Whisky advertising playing cards manufactured by Nintendo Playing Cards Co Ltd for Dodwell & Co., 1960s.

Black & White Whisky by Nintendo

Akadama Honey Wine by Nintendo

Suntory Akadama Honey Wine playing cards manufactured by Nintendo, Japan, c.1970.

Akadama Honey Wine by Nintendo

Utamaro “Ukiyo-e” playing cards

Utamaro Ukiyo-e playing cards showing woodblock prints of beautiful women.

Utamaro “Ukiyo-e” playing cards

Hiroshige Ukiyo-e playing cards

“Hiroshige” playing cards drawn by Hiroshige Ando (1797-1858) at 53 stopoffs on the journey from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto.

Hiroshige Ukiyo-e playing cards

Japanese Women

Japanese Women playing cards in an idealised and erotic style by Keiichi Takasawa (1914-1984).

Japanese Women

Dragon Fanning Deck

This set of cards published by DP Group Ltd (Japan) allows the performer to create different fans

Dragon Fanning Deck

Nintendo Mario Playing Cards

Special cartoon playing cards designed to accompany Nintendo's Mario series of computer games.

Nintendo Mario Playing Cards

Leopardo 777 made in Japan for Peru

Leopardo 777 playing cards manufactured in Japan for the Estanco de Naipes del Peru, 1960s.

Leopardo 777 made in Japan for Peru

Uta Garuta

These cards are basically a poetry anthology (the Hyakunin Isshu, or 百人一首), transposed onto cards.

Uta Garuta

Komaru 小丸

The usual composition appears to be a series of pips from 1-9, and a court card repeated 4 times. Some of the pips are decorated with silver overprints.

Komaru  小丸

Japanese Kurofuda 黑札

The name means “Black cards”, which is especially true of you look at the suit of batons. The horse's legs can be recognised on the Cavaliers.

Japanese Kurofuda 黑札

Akahachi

After Mekuri games such as Unsun Karuta and Tenshô Karuta were banned by the authorities, especially if played with foreign cards, their appearance was disguised.

Akahachi

Kabufuda

Kabufuda playing cards manufactured by Nintendo, Japan

Kabufuda

Unsun Karuta

Unsun Karuta うんすんかるた Japan c.1780.

Unsun Karuta

Japanese Playing Cards

Japanese playing cards include: 'Awase' or 'matching pairs' cards and Portuguese or Spanish-derived 'Dragon' type cards.

Japanese Playing Cards

Tensho Mekuri - Japan

Tensho Mekuri cards hand-made by Patricia Kirk, 2003

Tensho Mekuri - Japan

Hana Fuda - Japan

Hana Fuda playing cards hand-made by Patricia Kirk, 2003

Hana Fuda - Japan