Classic Nintendo Mahjong Set and Hanafuda Cards

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 17 Comments |

When visiting my host family up in Akita some time ago, I came across a rather interesting item. It was a Mahjong board (my host parents being rather keen players), but not just any – a classic Yakuman Sparkling Diamond set made by Nintendo!

I know very little about Mahjong myself, having never really taken the time to properly learn the ins and outs of the game, but I can appreciate the quality in this old set they showed me. Packaged in a hardened grey case a little reminiscent of the NES game cartridges from my youth, the word ‘Nintendo’ is neatly placed in the centre. Before making computer games, Nintendo was a originally a playing card company and also dabbled in other areas of business before turning their sights to create Mario and other well known characters.

Opening the box, a nice fabric-lined interior with an old manual created by the Kyoto-based company. The resin tiles are stacked up in two racks.

This particular version is known as the Nintendo Yakuman Special set (麻雀牌 任天堂 役満 特重) because of a sparkling diamond-like object placed into one of the tiles. A very similar set sold on Yahoo Auctions for 22,000 yen.

Another shot of the tiles below. I have to admit, handling the tiles felt a lot better than I had imagined. The had a substantial weight and very satisfying click when placing them down.

Another old item my host parents had lying around was an original set of Nintendo hanafuda cards. I’ve written in the past about me acquiring some special promotional Club Nintendo hanafuda cards, but these were the real deal. Kinda sweet, huh?

Have you ever come across some old Nintendo merchandise? How about items that hark back to Nintendo’s taxi days or even the love hotel chain they allegedly opened?

17 comments on “Classic Nintendo Mahjong Set and Hanafuda Cards
  1. Hollo says:

    I was just searching to answer a question on my blog about the Nintendo mahjong when coming across your page. I have almost the exact same Nintendo set you have there – although mine may not have the diamond piece…. Will have to check that. Great old Nintendo history!

  2. Brianna says:

    I managed to come across some vintage Nintendo Hanafuda cards at a second hand store. They are in a small wooden box with the Old Nintendo logo stamped on it. Not sure much about them other than they are in fairly good condition for being so old. (assuming the 1950ish area.)

  3. Roo says:

    Hi, I meant the back of the mahjong tiles. The carvings in my set are identical as yours, with black backs. Also, do you have any idea of the set vintage? 70s, 80s?

  4. Gakuranman says:

    Not sure anymore. I photographed this set at my host family’s home…

  5. Roo says:

    another question, what is the back color of the pieces? Mine is black

  6. Anonymous says:

    I bought some Nindento Hanafuda cards a while ago at Loft, but they’re nothing special…I’d like to get some novel-looking ones someday. I think it’s an interesting game. My girlfriend taught me how to play, and subsequently we found out that there are several different versions of Hanafuda (with the same set of cards, but different ways of matching and different point values). Gonna try to learn them all…

  7. Corey says:

    I’m not sure about quantities. I found both styles new in a small department store toy department beside regular playing cards (even a poker deck by Nintendo). If I remember correctly, the decks were around ¥1,400 and ¥1,800 each and they had 3 or more of each on display so I don’t think they are particularly rare. Granted, I had to go to a number of stores before I found some.

    The ones I found are the first and second decks shown on http://www.nintendo.co.jp/n09/hana-kabu_items/index.html

    I found the cards hard to play with because of the size so when I found a deck of poker cards with the hanafuda designs printed on the cards, I grabbed them. It’s so much easier to play with them and when teaching people how to play, I point out the relationship with the suits and numbers on the cards. It’s so much easier to understand the 12 suits if you have numbers to relate them to. :)

  8. Corey says:

    When I was in Kyoto last spring, I looked for and finally found my own deck of hanafuda cards made by Nintendo. Two versions were available, the Oni deck which I got, and a more expensive version that looked like the set above. I still don’t know what the difference between the two decks were besides the outside label and price. The cards from my deck look like those above. Even harder than finding the cards was finding someone that could teach me how to play.

    Now that I have seen the Mahjong set, I want one!

    • Gakuranman says:

      Interesting – you were able to buy a set of hanafuda cards by Nintendo? Are they still making them in small quantities or was it a second hand set? Online auctions seem to be a good place to get hold of a Mahjong set!

  9. midorichan says:

    What a treasure you have there! I imagine it must be great to play Mahjong with the real tiles rather than on my iPhone :)
    And the hanafuda cards!! I remember my grandfather having a deck but can’t remember if they were Nintendo. I doubt it, but I keep looking for them everytime I visit!

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