Much like European playing cards, There are also regional variants of the Japanese Hanafuda. One such pattern is called "Echigobana". The present deck, however, is a smaller sized ( 4.5 x 3 cm) edition of this pattern. There are small differences in the small and large editions of this pattern, but the small deck may perhaps be a sufficient introduction to this pattern as a whole.
Although the basic structure of the deck remains the same, The Echigobana greatly differs from the standard pattern of hanafuda . Many of the animals and details of the cards are greatly simplified and stylized. I shall introduce the key features of this deck as we go along.
The suits of January(Top row) and February(bottom row)
One of the first things that distinguishes this pattern from the regular hanafuda is the prescence of heavy silver overprinting on the cards. In the case of the suit of January (top row), the silver overprints form the detail of the pine needles.
Also note the striped background on the suit of January.
The suits of March(T) and April(B)
The present pattern possesses a much more stylized, even crude draughtsmanship when compared with the standard pattern. For example, the cherry blossoms of Febuary (top), are represented as mere squiggles with a blob of red colour over them.
The suits of may (T.) and June ( B)
Note the limited palette of colurs used, viz; red, black and yellow. This is particularly evident in the suit of may ( top row). Normally the iris blossoms (which is the flower used for this suit) would be coloured blue, but here, the colour blue has been replaced by black. Also note the charmingly crude rendering of the peonies of the suit of June
The suits of july (T) and August ( B)
Note the two "Junk " cards of the suit of August ( bottom r. 3rd & 4th from left) In standard hanafuda, the sky over the black "hills" is plain. In this deck , the sky is patterned with lines in one card, and with red "clouds" in another.
The onifuda ( top row, 1st from left), and the suits of september ( T) and October ( B)
Note the "ribbon" cards for the suit of October ( 3rd from left). In standard hanafuda decks, the ribbon is rendered blue. In this deck, however, the ribbon is coloured black.
The suits of November ( T) and December( B), along with an extra card ( bottom, 1st from left)
Note the suit of November ( top) The criss-crossed silver overprints suggest rain, which is apparently an alternative name for this suit. The extra card ( called so as I can think of no better name) depicts a strange figure , something like a cross between a wicker man and a space alien bearing a stick.
Here are three cards showing some of the main differences between this pattern and the Echigokobana. (The larger of the pairs of cards is the standard hanafuda)
1ST PAIR: The "rain-man" card of the suit of November.
2nd pair : The "bird' in the suit of febuary. Note the lack of green in the Echigokobana.
3rd pair: The "boar" in the suit of July. In the Echigokobana, the boar looks more like a hedgehog.