Antique games are quite popular in Japan. Popular games include Sugoroku 【杉ろく】, Hanafuda 【はなふだ】, Mahjong solitaire 【麻雀・麻將・四人打牌】 and Igo 【囲碁・圍棋・围棋】.
Sugoroku can be described as a game where you roll dice to go around the board hitting point circles while avoiding certain spaces on the board which usually result in loss of turn or compulsory movement forward. Many variations exist including 6 sided dice, 4 sided dice etc. It is only logical that there are many games of this genre since it is so simple to play.
Hanafuda also consist of rolling dice, but the scoring system is completely different from Sugoroku.
One side has flower pictures and another side has number 〇〇. Flower cards are divided into 12 months with 4 cards per month (There are 4 suits). Number cards are divided into 10 numbers (there are 5 suits) with 1-9 number cards + joker card (represented by Sun, Moon or Man). These three jokers correspond to the flowers representing months on hanafuda; end of year joker corresponds to Pine; joker for January corresponds to Plum blossom; joker for February corresponds to Cherry blossom etc. One joker card can replace one of its suit.
At the end of each month (or play session), score is tallied for each suit and winner is declared depending on how many jokers were collected in that suit.
Mahjong solitaire uses similar table layout to Mahjong but with different number of tiles. It is played with 1 set of Mahjong tiles and 2 jokers (corresponding to flower and numbers). This game is best described as luck based since jokers can be used any time no matter whose turn it currently is, much like solitaire games in general. However there are quite a few variations in scoring system so take note! There are also multiple variants such as Shanghai mahjong where you get paid double or triple for jokers.
Igo is often considered to be the most difficult game of all because it requires high level skills, tactics and patience to win. Igo is played on board with 19 x 19 lines (total 361 intersection points) with multiple black pieces (called “stones”) and white pieces laid out in turns by both players. You can capture your opponent’s pieces by surrounding them so they cannot escape hence creating territory.
Or you can capture opponent’s stone by filling up their territory with your own stones making it impossible for them to form territory thus winning the game immediately since there are no more spaces left for opposition. There are just too many variations possible that anyone who claims to know how this game works is probably bluffing.
Other games include Oicho-kabu 【おいちょカブ】, Hanafuda jidai shogi 【はなふだ時代将棋】, Pokemon trading card game 【ポケモントレーディングカードゲーム】 etc. Poker is also popular in Japan even though you can play poker with jokers too if you want to make things more interesting! But joker cards are usually used as jokers for Mahjong solitaire or Hanafuda instead of joker cards. In this case it might look better to use joker cards as joker playing cards rather than joker joker cards.
There is also a japanese card game called 『発刊』which can be played with jokers. The objective of the game is to finish your stack first by stacking it up, whereas other players are trying to use jokers to make you stack it up. There are two jokers in total, one red and one black for playing this game which means each player can use either black or red jokers during their turn. When using joker cards for this game, the colour of joker doesn’t matter as long as you know that jokers are used differently depending on who plays them. It’s best not to mix jokers from different games especially mahjong solitaire since they correspond to months and numbers respectively.
In japanese culture jokers are usually associated with jokers or goofing off, but I think joker cards can look good if you get them from a non-standard deck of cards, such as tarot joker cards, wizard joker cards etc instead of joker playing cards! They come in pretty designs too if you don’t mind losing a bit by customising your jokers 🙂 You could also use them for some other card games since they actually make nice decorative pieces rather than normal jokers which is why this has been mentioned in the previous paragraph. Tarot joker decks would probably be more appropriate for 『発刊』though since even though it’s similar to joker cards, jokers are used differently depending on who plays them.
I’ve made joker cards before but it was really hard to make jokers that look nice and neat since they’re usually 4 colours or more (for japanese standard jokers) . It would’ve probably been easier if I used computer to do the printing but I couldn’t afford to buy printer at that point in time so instead tried using marker pens which didn’t work out well… But I’ll do another post about these sometime soon because making joker playing cards is something like a hobby for me 🙂 One day, maybe I’ll even make joker tarot cards too! Maybe not though since the cost of making would be much higher than normal!