Saturday, 16 June 2012

East meets West

In such a situation, Korean people say -
'It's a conspiratorial Go-Stop game'. 

Wonder Girls as Hwatu

Wonder Girls (Korean: 원더걸스) is a popular Korean girl group, whose current line-up consists of five members Yubin, Yeeun, Sunye, Sohee, and Hyelim. They are managed by their producer and manager singer-songwriter Park Jin-Young under his talent agency, JYP Entertainment. They are co-managed in the United States by JYP Entertainment and Jonas Group. The meaning behind the group's name 'Wonder Girls' comes from the idea that they are 'the girls who can amaze the world'.

The group began their entry into the American market in 2009 as an opening act for The Jonas Brothers' World Tour, performing the English version of their hit single 'Nobody'. In late 2009 their song ranked 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Wonder Girls the first Korean group to enter the chart. In 2010, Wonder Girls entered the Chinese market with the Chinese Special Edition that has Chinese versions of 'Tell Me', 'Nobody' and 'So Hot'.

In 2012, Wonder Girls signed with label DefStar Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music Japan, for their Japanese debut. The group's debut single, 'Nobody for Everybody' is a remake of their 2008 hit 'Nobody'.

Hwatu Photo Parody

A Hwatu Scene

Friday, 15 June 2012

'Singing Ant' Hwatu

I don't actually know the brand name except that it has 'Ant' in the title somewhere!

Ants in the Bush Clover and Wisteria!

The six extra cards.

King Star brand Hwatu

The six extra cards.


Rainbow brand Hwatu

The Bush Warbler/Nightingale has been replaced by the Magpie, the official bird of Seoul!

The six extra cards.
Top row, left to right:
  • Bright for non-winner: This counts as a Bright for a player that does not win the round.
  • Two extra Junk cards awarded.
  • 'Special' Rain junk card = two junk cards awarded (if used, this card needs to replace the normal 'Rain' junk card).
Bottom row, left to right:
  • 'Congratulations' - double your score if you win.
  • Three extra junk cards awarded.
  • One extra junk card awarded.

Waddamda brand Hwatu

The six extra cards.

OWL brand Hwatu

The six extra cards.


Diamond brand Hwatu

The six extra cards.

Dokdo Island Hwatu: Up Close

Dokdo, Korea or should it be Takeshima, Japan?  Sovereignty disputes aside this is an interesting Hwatu deck that I recently imported from Korea for around £5 including postage.  At first glance, it looks very much like a standard Hwatu deck, however look a bit closer and you will see a few differences!

Before we look at the deck though, let me give you a little background about Dokdo or Takeshima.  The Liancourt Rocks (to give them their Anglo-French name) lie almost equidistant between Korea and Japan in the East Sea or the Sea of Japan.  Dokdo means 'Solitary Island' in Korean, whilst Takeshima means 'Bamboo Island' in Japanese.  The name Liancourt refers to a French whaling ship (Le Liancourt) that came close to being wrecked there in 1849.  The islets lie in fertile fishing grounds that may also contain large gas deposits. Korea currently administers the islets whilst Japan claims it as a part of Shimane prefecture and both claims go back several hundred years.  In 1954 and 1962, Japan proposed that the dispute be referred to the International Court of Justice but Korea declined.

It seems ironic that this deck which pushes the Korean claim to the islets are actually using a type of deck 'introduced' to Korea from Japan! Or maybe that is the whole point!

With it being a localised deck, a few of the suits and elements thereof differ.  Some look to be quite obvious as to what they are, whilst others aren't, although I'm sure these can all be found on or in the sea around Dokdo?!

Here are some images...

The Deer and Maple are replaced by the Crab and Starfish and the Harvest moon rises above Dokdo in a stormy East Sea (aka Sea of Japan).

The six extra cards.

Can you spot some of the differences?

Daitoryo Hanafuda by Nintendo

Nintendo's Daitoryo Hanafuda were manufactured very early in the company's life. They are Nintendo's most successful Hanafuda and are among the few decks that are still produced to this day. The Daitoryo cards are well known for featuring the portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte. Today, the box in which the deck comes in is made of a plastic material, whereas originally the cards were placed in beautifully crafted wood boxes.

'Daitoryo' is translated to English as 'President'. It is unknown why Fusajiro Yamauchi named the card deck as such, since Napoleon was an Emperor instead of a President. Some have speculated that Yamauchi thought that the photograph he used of Napoléon was in fact that of first US President George Washington, though this cannot be proved. It is also possible that Fusajiro simply made a false assumption in thinking that Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of France.

This was not the first time that Nintendo used a Napoléon Bonaparte likeness on a product. In the nineteen seventies, Nintendo released a strategy board game called Napoléon. It was popular enough to warrant a miniature version that was a part of the Mini Game series. Also interesting to note is that years later, Sekiryo Kaneda, president of Nintendo, created a Nintendo subsidiary called Napoleon with the intention of selling Nintendo playing cards outside of Japan. The division failed and was later dissolved.

The cards measure 5.4cm by 3.3cm or 2.1/8" (2.125") by 1.5/16" (1.325") in old money and are available in Black or Ochre.  Rules for Koi-Koi and Hachi Hachi (88) are supplied with the cards and of course, these are in Japanese only.

Rules for Koi-Koi and Hachi Hachi (88).

Thursday, 14 June 2012

My Nintendo Hanafuda Collection

Here is my Nintendo Hanafuda collection.  I personally purchased the Daitoryo and Tengu decks in Osaka, Japan, whilst the Mario deck was bought on

Tengu Hanafuda by Nintendo

One of the most popular Nintendo hanafuda decks is the Tengu deck. The Tengu Hanafuda deck is a high-quality deck, second only to the Daitoryo Hanafuda deck. The cards are stored in a sturdy plastic box with the famous picture of Tengu, a notorious Japanese demon-god on it.

As you can see, Tengu has a long nose, white beard and bushy eyebrows. He is wearing a 'Tokin' cap on his head and is holding an eight-fingered fatsia Japonica (Japanese Aralia) leaf which serves as a magical fan.
The Japanese word 'Hanafuda' is made up of two characters. 'Hana' means 'Flower' and 'Fuda' means 'Card'. However, the word 'Hana' can also mean 'Nose' and in the days when gambling with Hanafuda was illegal, you would show the proprietor of an illegal gamgbling den that  you wanted to play Hanafuda by rubbing your nose, which is how Hanafuda came to be associated with the Tengu demon-god!

Like the Daitoryo deck, the cards measure 5.4cm by 3.3cm or 2.1/8" (2.125") by 1.5/16" (1.325") in old money and are available in Black or Ochre.  Rules for Koi-Koi and Hachi Hachi are supplied with the cards and not surprisingly these are in Japanese only.

Mario Hanafuda by Nintendo

Mario Hanafuda are only available to members of Club Nintendo however decks can be obtained from websites like (where I got mine).  A Club Nintendo member collects 'stars' and swaps these for goodies within the Stars Catalogue online.  When this deck first came out in Japan it would cost a Club Nintendo member 400 points.

The actual deck follows the tradtional Hachihachibana pattern as used by Nintendo in their Daitoryo and Tengu decks and the deck itself is of the same quality as the Tengu deck.

The cards (like the Tengu and Daitoryo decks) measure 5.4cm by 3.3cm or 2.1/8" (2.125") by 1.5/16" (1.325") in old money. I have the 'European' deck so rules for Koi-Koi are provided in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese.  Rules for Hachi Hachi are not supplied.

Being a Mario themed deck, many of the traditional elements have been replaced by characters within the Mario universe.  Here is the list:

Crane > Mario
Bush Warbler > Yoshi
Curtain with Luigi
Cuckoo > Lakitu
Blooper appears in the water by the Bridge
Butterflies > Paragoombas
Boar > Donkey Kong
Harvest Moon > Big Boo
Geese > ?
Piranha plant appears on the Sake Cup card
Deer > Wario
Rain-man and Frog > Princess Peach and Toad
Swallow > Koopa Paratroopa
Chinese Phoenix > Bowser

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Koi-Koi Scoring Hands (Yaku)

Gokō (五光) - Five Lights - 10pts

Shikō (or Yonkō) (四光) - Four Lights - 8pts

Ame-Shikō (雨四光) - Rainy Four Lights - 7pts
'Rain-man' (Poet) plus 3 other Lights. 
'Ame' pronounced 'a-May' = Rain.

Sankō (三光) - Three Lights - 6pts
3 out of the 4 Lights that exclude the 'Rain-man' (Poet) - (November's Light card).  
'Lights' are also known as 'Brights'.

Ino-shika-chō (猪鹿蝶) - Boar-Deer-Butterfly (BDB) - 5pts
The June, July and October 'Animal' cards. 
1 additional point awarded for each extra 'Animal' card captured.

Tane (タネ) - Animals (literally 'Seed(s)') - 1pt
Also known as 'Tens'
Tane, pronounced 'Tan-A' = 5 'Animal' (10pt) cards that don't make the scoring hand of 'Ino-shika-chō' (see above).  
1 additional point awarded for each extra 'Animal' card.  These are also referred to as 'Earth' cards.

The 'Plank Bridge' and the 'Sake (Rice Wine) Cup' (both shown above) count as 'Animals'.  

I prefer using the term 'Tens'.

Aka-tan (赤タン) - Red Poetry Scrolls - 5pts
Aka-tan, pronounced 'a-ka-tan'. All 3 Red Scrolls with Japanese script on them (the January, February and March Scroll cards). 
1 additional point awarded for each extra 'Scroll' card captured. 'Aka' = Red.

 Ao-tan (青タン) - Blue Scrolls - 5pts
Ao-tan, pronounced 'Ow-tan'. This hand is made up of the June, September and October Scroll cards. 
1 additional point awarded for each extra 'Scroll' card captured. 'Ao' = Blue.
Note: Making both Ao-Tan and Aka-Tan [Aka-tan, Ao-tan no Chōfuku (赤短・青短の重複)]= 10pts, with 1 additional point awarded for each extra Scroll card captured.

A rule variant allows a player to make both Ao-tan (or Aka-tan ) and Tan. Example: Ao-tan plus 2 other scroll cards. This gives 5pts for Ao-tan and 1pt for Tan (6pts in total) rather than it counting as 5pts for Ao-tan plus 1pt for each additional scroll card for a total of 7pts.

 Tanzaku/Tan (タン) - Scrolls - 1pt
Tanzaku, usually truncated to 'Tan' = 5 Scroll cards that do not make Ao-tan or Aka-tan.  
1 additional point awarded for each extra 'Scroll' card captured e.g. 7 Scroll cards = 3pts. 
'Scrolls' are also known as 'Strips' and even 'Ribbons' - despite them representing strips of paper.

Kasu (カス) - Dregs - 1pt
Kasu, pronounced 'Cass' = 10 'Dregs' cards. 
1 additional point awarded for each extra 'Dregs' card captured e.g. 12 Dregs cards = 3pts.  
Other names are 'Junk', 'Trash', 'Simples', 'Normals', 'Plains', 'Chaff' and 'Basics'.

Optional 'Viewing' Yaku

The following two hands are fairly easy to obtain and due to this they are not always included by players.  One rule variant allows for their inclusion but the hands only count if another Yaku is made (simultaneously, subsequently or previously) e.g.  Tsukimi-zake + Sankō; Hanami-zake + Tane; Tsukimi-zake + Hanami-zake + Kasu. Some scoring systems assign only 3pts for these 'viewing' hands.

Tsukimi-zake (月見酒) - Moon Viewing - 5pts
'Tsukimi' = Moon Viewing Festival. This hand consists of the August Light card (Harvest Moon) plus September's 'Sake Cup' card.

Hanami-zake (花見酒) - Blossom Viewing - 5pts
'Hanami' generally refers to Cherry Blossom Viewing. This hand consists of the March Light Card (Cherry Blossom with Viewing Curtain) plus September's 'Sake Cup' card.

Other scoring systems assign 15pts in total for capturing all three 'Viewing' cards - 'Viewing the Blossoms in the Moonlight'.

'Rain ruins the Party'
Another rule variant or how I like to call it 'Rainy day' as it looks better in Japanese (雨の日 - Ame no hi - 'wet day'); This rule disables the 'viewing' yaku for BOTH players if a November card is captured (variants being ALL November cards captured - which I prefer).  I don't use it most the time but I think it's a fun rule.

Oya Gachi - 6pts

Another optional scoring rule is 'Oya-Gachi' (Dealer's privilege). This scores the 'Oya' (Dealer) 6pts in the event that no player makes a scoring hand during a round of a game (a variant includes the situation where one player has made a Koi-Koi call and then neither player is able to make a subsequent scoring hand).

Note: 'Oya' is the Japanese word for 'Parent' and in the work place it refers to the 'Boss' (who is usually an elder). 

Dealt Hands (Instant Wins)
Here you win a round before a card is even played! These are rare.

Teshi (手四) - Four Hands - 6pts
Being dealt all 4 cards of the same suit.

Kuttsuki (くっつき) - Sticky - 6pts
Being dealt 4 pairs of cards of matching suits.


The 'Sake Cup' card counts as both an 'Animal' and a 'Dreg' card e.g. if you have 9 Dregs cards and also have the 'Sake Cup' card you have made the yaku 'Kasu' worth 1pt.  By the way, the character on the Sake Cup means 'Longevity'.

For any yaku made that is worth 7 or more points in total, then the score is doubled e.g. 8pts x 2 = 16pts.  It is up to the players involved whether or not the doubling rule is used.

If 'Player A' calls 'Koi-Koi' and then 'Player B' makes a yaku and then 'Stops' (Shōbu), then 'Player B' doubles his/her score for that yaku.

Some rules allow for multiple 'Koi-Koi' calls and doubles (especially when playing for money), whilst others only allow for one per player per round.


If three cards of the same suit are in the field of play then these are placed together.  The player who has or draws the remaining card of that suit takes all three cards in one go when playing the remaining card of that suit.

Koi-Koi (こいこい) = 'Come Come' (as in 'carry/play on').
Shōbu (勝負) = 'Game' (as in the end of/conclusion of the match/bout/round/game).

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are practically as many different scoring systems for Koi-Koi as there are players.  Families in Japan often pass down their own 'house rules' and Yaku values.