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Published September 04, 2015 Updated February 18, 2023

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.

1979 Japan Nintendo Ethnic & Indigenous Add to Collection

The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan. Traditional Ainu culture was quite different from Japanese culture, with roots stretching back more than 10,000 years. It is still alive and vibrant today. The Ainu are traditionally animists, believing that everything in nature has a kamuy (spirit or god) on the inside. Never shaving after a certain age, the men had full beards and moustaches   Wikipedia →

Ainu playing cards by Nintendo, 1979 Ainu playing cards by Nintendo, 1979

Above: Ainu playing cards by Nintendo, 1979. 52 cards + 2 jokers. There are two different decks of Ainu cards; this deck is sometimes referred to as "Ainu I" to distinguish it from the second deck, sometimes referred to as "Ainu II." The court card designs are different in the two decks. Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

Ainu Group

Above: a group of Ainu people.

See also: Smithsonian National Museum of National History

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.


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