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Published August 20, 2023 Updated August 20, 2023

Kyoto Souvenir Deck

Kyoto Souvenir playing cards by Nintendo aimed at the up and coming tourist industry, 1950s.

1955 Japan Nintendo Souvenir Add to Collection

Kyoto was the capital city of Japan from 794 AD until 1868 and is often called the thousand year capital. Thousands of tourists flock to this significant cultural city and have done for many decades. Nintendo was founded in Kyoto in 1889 and they still operate from it even today. Sometime between 1953 and 1957, a sixteen page product catalogue entitled, Nintendo Playing Cards Report was produced. This detailed intro to the company featured products including Hanafuda cards, Western style decks in various sizes and designs, promotional decks, which could be customised for your business, trick decks and this deck, a souvenir one aimed directly at the up and coming tourist industry.

The style of the cards, oval photographs in pastel shades was already a dated format in some countries in the western world, particularly North America, but this was something of a revelation in Japan. The cards form a window into a country in the fifties, only opening up to the tourist industry, after the horrors of the Second World War. Nintendo clearly wanted to show that Japan was a place to visit as a holiday destination, with a lot to offer.

Kyoto Souvenir Deck produced by Nintendo, mid-1950s Kyoto Souvenir Deck produced by Nintendo, mid-1950s Kyoto Souvenir Deck produced by Nintendo, mid-1950s

Above: Kyoto Souvenir playing cards produced by Nintendo, mid-1950s

The cards themselves would have originally been in a tax wrapper, with an example card on the outside of this. This example has an additional four of spades with a corner cut off for this purpose. The box is decorated with basic black ink drawings of expected elements of Japan; a couple of pagodas, a lady in traditional kimono. The pips are represented on the box, clearly with not much thought, since we have a red diamond and club and a light blue spade and heart! See the box

There is one joker featuring three impish characters, which I have seen on other Nintendo decks (see example here).

The Ace of Spades is also familiar, sporting a standard design of Nintendo for this card. There doesn't appear to be a particular plan over the pastel shades with the deck. They are as follows:

  • SPADES - 2 to 10 - PINK, Court Cards - YELLOW
  • HEARTS - A TO 10 - BLUE, Court Cards - YELLOW
  • CLUBS - A TO 7 - PINK, 8 TO K - YELLOW
  • DIAMONDS - A,2 - YELLOW, 3 TO 10 - BLUE, Court Cards - YELLOW

Each card, barring the Ace of Spades, has a legend informing us what we are seeing. The photo range includes; temples, scenery, statues, shrines, a university, dolls, maidens, museums, bridges, ornaments, a festival, mountains, government buildings, geisha girls and many more.

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7 Articles

By Ian Taylor

Member since June 20, 2022

I've played card games from the age of three, collecting all things "cards" from 16 and finally started to specialise at 58! Thanks to these wonderful pages and a certain Mr Lodge, my main interest is in British decks, with examples of the English standard pattern in other countries. I am beginning to develop a liking for Belgium and German cards, too. It's nice to be able to spend time writing profiles for WOPC, on more modern yet beautiful decks. Looking forward to retiring in April, when I can spend more time on this wonderful interest.


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