Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Kurofuda - Nintendo

"Kurofuda" ( 札) - Nintendo, 48c. + "onifuda" + Blank

   We now come to the second type of mekuri karuta, the "Kurofuda", or "black cards" . Looking at the cards, it is easy to see why they got the nickname. The features of the deck are almost completely obscured by large areas of black or red paint; so much so that the only reliable method of identifying the the cards is by the shape of the blobs of paint.( Unlike the akahachi, where the features of the deck are for the most part, just blobs of paint, this deck has printed outlines, which are painted over with blobs of paint)
  Sylvia Mann states that this deck is the closest deck to the portugese originals. In some ways, this is correct. When one looks closely at the cards. you can see outlines of faces, &c. which have been covered by the black paint ( if you look carefully, you can see them in the images below)  . These faces do indeed reseble actual human figures ( unlike the abstract forms of the akahachi)
Another curious feature of the deck is the lack of silver overprints.

Compare: akahachi-
Key to position of cards:
top row- 7, 8,  9,  (Knave),  ( Cavalier), (King)
Bottom row---Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Swords or isu
As you can see, the colour in these images is applied more or less iin total disregard to the outlines of the figures. Note the shape of the swords. In the "Akahachi", the swords are just red lines, But here, they are more realisticaly dipicted.Also note the bird on the 2 of swords. You can also see the legs & lower half of the king's body.

Hau or batons
As with the akahachi, the main difference between the swords & batons is the colouring. Note the cavalier. The legs of his mount are visible, untouched by paint.

Ôru, or coins
The pips in this suit still remarkably look like it's european counterpart ( The star-like design in particular). If you look closely, the three court figures hold a starlike coin.
Koppu or cups
The cups in this suit are rounder and more bulbous than that of the Akahachi. You can see the lower part of the knave's body.

Compare: Akahachi

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Akahachi- Nintendo

"Akahachi" ( 八) , 48c. + Blank & "oni-fuda"

This deck, and the following few decks that I shall present, are the so-called 'mekuri' patterns. found in Japan, the patterns are local adaptations of the portugese playing cards introduced by traders, &c. However, In time, the designs grew to be more abstract, a process perhaps much aided by the fact that they were banned ( to disguise the cards) ,along with isolation form foregin traders.

In 1973, Sylvia Mann, in her book "the dragons of portugal" , stated that there were ten different kinds of mekuri patterns being produced in Japan. However, 39 years later, I could only find two., and all in one shop in Tokyo ( Okuno karuta )

The cards introduced by the traders were Latin-suited, that is, having suits of cups, coins, batons and swords, much like ( but not identical to)  ones used in Italy and spain to this day. As you can see, the Japanese more or less kept the shape of the suits, but the court cards have been greatly abstracted, only vaguely resembling human forms .On some ( presumedly important) cards, you can see silver overprints, perhaps to make them more visible in dimly lit rooms.
 Compare: Kurofuda -

Key to position of cards:

top row- 7, 8,  9,  (Knave),  ( Cavalier), (King)
Bottom row---Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

The suit of Batons, or "hau"
A you can see, the court cards only vaguely resemble human forms, being mostly comprised of  mass of red and black lines. Nevertheless, on some of the court cards, behind all that paint, a face can still be made out.
Also note the heavy silver overprints on the 1-6 of batons ( bottom row), and the court cards ( Top row, 3rd to 6th cards from left). The 6 of batons ( bottom row, 6th from left) , has the word 壽 ( lonevity) on it.

The suit of swords or "Isu"
The suit of isu or swords is distinguished from the suit of hau only by it's colour, the former being red, and the latter Black. Note the chinese numbers on the values of 4 to 9, and the Buddha on the 2 . The 8 ( top row, 2nd from right).

Cups, or Koppu
The pips of this suit do indeed resemble cups, or rather flat lidded vessels. The Cavalier ( top row, 4th from left), preserves the vague form of a man astride a horse - note the four legs which support the abstract figure.

Coins, or ôru
Again, the form of the suit somwhat resembles the conis of the priginal cards.
The Ace ( bottom row, 1st from left), takes the vague form of a serpent or dragon, an animal which was found on the aces of the portugese cards ( see
Also shown is the oni-fuda, a card which bears the visage of a goblin.