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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.

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

Kabu decks are single suited decks, generally using the suit of coins or batons. 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.

The decorated cards (right) are: 4, Ace, and 3. Rather inexplicably, this 4 is replaced by a 4 of batons!

Note the elaborately framed 2, and the court card, which bears a stylized soldier... complete with hat and scowling face (middle row).

Above: Japanese 'Komaru' cards. The bottom row shows: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5. The middle row shows: 6, 7, 8, 9, Court. Images courtesy Anthony Lee (anthonylesq.blogspot.com).

See also: Mekuri or Tensho cards, Unsun karuta, Akahachi, Mefuda, Kabufuda and Hana Fuda cards..

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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Komaru  小丸

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.