Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Awabana or Kinotokibana

The Kintokibana (officially Awabana) is a pattern born in the old province of Awa (now Tokushima prefecture, Shikoku). The name Kintoki refers to the legendary person featured on the extra card. This pattern spread to the north to Honshu in present day Okayama prefecture.

The most outstanding feature of the pattern is the presence of numerals, (except on the Kiri suit) referring to the twelve families or suits. They are found on almost every Kasu (Junk) card, in the shape of an encircled Japanese-Chinese character.

All the Tanzaku (Ribbons) but one feature a number, which is a part of the name of the month in Japanese language: 'Month 1' is January i.e. the suit of Matsu (Pine), 'Month 2' is February i.e. the suit of Ume (Plum) and so on.

Only two Tane cards from the suits of Fuji (Wisteria) and Yanagi (Willow) bear the encircled number, while the latter is not featured in other subjects, among which are all five Kô cards.

Yanagi or Ame suit

Kiri suit

Finally, the extra subject of the Kintoki deck after which this pattern was renamed: the Kintarô card.


Very popular in the Japanese folk tradition, yet based on a person who actually lived around the 10th century, Kintarô was a child of extraordinary strength, who outrooted trees and wrestled with bears in the mountains where he lived. 

He is traditionally featured as a rather stout boy with tanned (Red) skin, who wears only a breastplate with a large character for 'Gold' (Kin) and carries an axe.  He later became a distinguished warrior or samurai, changing his name into Kintoki Sakata.

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