23 September 1889: Nintendo starts making playing cards

On this day in 1889, ‘Nintendo Koppai’ began making Hanafuda playing cards. Fast forward 130-odd years, and it's an electronics company worth around £58bn.

Hear the name Nintendo and you probably think of Super Mario and his cartoon brethren. Perhaps it's the Entertainment System you got that Christmas in 1986 that's now gathering dust in the attic. Or the television screen you sacrificed to an overly exertive session on the Wii Fit.

What may not come to mind is a pack of playing cards. But if you were sitting in your living room in Kyoto, Japan, at the end of the 19th century, that's exactly what your Nintendo would have looked like a deck of beautifully hand-painted Hanafuda' cards.

Western-style playing cards first arrived in Japan with European missionaries in the 16th century. The Japanese soon became hooked on them quite literally so, leading to a crackdown on gambling. Japan then entered a long isolationist phase, and the cards were banned.

Traditional versions of the playing cards appeared from time to time. And so long as they weren't used for gambling, they were mostly tolerated. Then, with the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan began to open itself up to the outside world once more.

While playing cards were no way near as popular as they had once been, an entrepreneur named Fusajiro Yamauchi set up a business in Kyoto in September 1889 making Hanafuda cards.

These “flower cards” consisted of 48 ornate cards with floral designs, which were divided into 12 suits, representing the months of the year. Yamauchi called the company Nintendo Koppai.

Today, Nintendo, a company with a market cap in the region of £58bn, and its headquarters in Kyoto, still makes Hanafuda cards along with a range of other traditional playing cards and board games for the Japanese market.

But for us in Britain, we'll just have to go back to another round of Super Mario Kart.

Recommended

Britain’s ten most-hated shares – w/e 1 July
Stocks and shares

Britain’s ten most-hated shares – w/e 1 July

Rupert Hargreaves looks at Britain's ten most-hated shares, and what short-sellers are looking at now.
4 Jul 2022
Cryptocurrency roundup: a crypto price war could be on the cards
Bitcoin & crypto

Cryptocurrency roundup: a crypto price war could be on the cards

Bitcoin continues to languish around $20,000, while Binance's action on fees could spark a crypto price war. Saloni Sardana rounds up the week’s crypt…
24 Jun 2022
Tesco looks well-placed to ride out the cost of living crisis – investors take note
Retail stocks

Tesco looks well-placed to ride out the cost of living crisis – investors take note

Surging inflation is bad news for retailers. But supermarket giant Tesco looks better placed to cope than most, says Rupert Hargreaves.
17 Jun 2022
The best airline shares to own as the travel industry rebounds
Share tips

The best airline shares to own as the travel industry rebounds

The travel industry still faces severe challenges, but there are signs of recovery. These airline shares look well-placed to ride out the turbulence, …
6 Jun 2022

Most Popular

Ray Dalio’s shrewd $10bn bet on the collapse of European stocks
European stockmarkets

Ray Dalio’s shrewd $10bn bet on the collapse of European stocks

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater hedge fund is putting its money on a collapse in European stocks. It’s likely to pay off, says Matthew Lynn.
3 Jul 2022
Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?
Share tips

Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?

With a dividend yield of 12.3%, Persimmon looks like a highly attractive prospect for income investors. But that sort of yield can also indicate compa…
1 Jul 2022
Is inflation about to drop as recession takes hold?
UK Economy

Is inflation about to drop as recession takes hold?

Central banks are raising interest rates in an attempt to curb soaring inflation. But will that push the economy into recession? John Stepek looks at …
5 Jul 2022