Woking Writers’ Circle member Catherine Rogan has written a non-fiction book about Hanafuda, the Japanese playing cards. She tells us what inspired the book and a bit about the games.

“I first came across Hanafuda (flower) cards in a Nintendo DS game. This had a version of Koi Koi, one of the capture games which can be played with the cards. At first I was bewildered, but after a few rounds of randomly poking at the screen, I began to get into the rhythm of the game and so spot the matching cards.

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“In the main, games played with a Hanafuda deck involve matching cards by month (identified by a plant) and collecting combinations of cards that give you a scoring bonus. Rather like learning the Japanese alphabet, a large part of the learning curve is the visual difference between the cards and European cards. However once you have learnt to recognise the different flowers and animals on the strikingly attractive cards, the games are a lot easier to play that they first appear.

“Having bought myself a pack of Hanafuda cards (they are available from Amazon) I set about trying to teach my partner to play. I quickly realised that the game is a lot easier when the computer is highlighting your choice of matches, and keeping track of your sets. Once we had played a few rounds, though, he was beginning to get the hang of it. I found the rules for other games on the internet. I brought the cards on a caravanning holiday but with no mobile signal in rural Wales I had to print off various webpages and lists of hands. I did find a book on the internet, but it concentrated on a game called Hachi-Hachi (88) which is extremely complex and tactical. What I wanted was a guide that could be used to teach the family how to play some simple games.


“While Koi Koi and is one of the most popular Hanafuda games, there are many other games you can play with the deck. I have stuck to the more straightforward games, the ones that beginners can pick up and enjoy. The games are from Japan, Korea and Hawaii and there are several different styles of play. Capture games are about picking up cards and making combinations, Poka games are about getting rid of your hand. There are some Kabufuda games – these can be played with a special deck but equally you could use a Hanafuda deck or a European deck with the face cards removed. Kabufuda cards are numbered 1-10 and are used for blackjack style games. Kabufuda cards are harder to find than Hanafuda, but I got some from eBay.

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“As well as some of the more simple traditional games, this book has some Solitaire games for one and I’ve also included a couple of traditional European children’s games at the end. These are good for younger children, and for getting used to the cards.

“The book would be a great Christmas gift for an older child, or anyone who enjoys card or board games and wants to try something new. It is available from Amazon.