Are Card Games Popular in Japan?

Photo of author

By Eric Wilson

Japan is known for its rich culture and unique traditions, but did you know that card games are also a significant part of their entertainment industry Yes, you read it right!

Card games have been a popular pastime in Japan for many years. In this article, we will explore the history and popularity of card games in Japan.

History of Card Games in Japan

The origin of card games in Japan can be traced back to the 16th century when Portuguese traders introduced them to the country. The first cards were called “karuta,” which means playing cards in Japanese. These cards were used for various purposes, including gambling and educational games.

In the 17th century, karuta became popular among Japanese nobility, who used them to play a game called “utai karuta” (poetry card game). The game involved matching poems from one set of cards to another set of cards with only the last syllable of each poem provided as a clue.

The Popularity of Card Games Today

Fast forward to today, card games continue to be a popular pastime in Japan. One of the most popular card games is “Hanafuda,” which translates to “flower cards.”

Hanafuda is a traditional Japanese deck that consists of 48 cards divided into 12 suits. Each suit represents a month and features a different flower or plant native to Japan.

Another popular card game is “Karuta,” which has evolved over time but still maintains its popularity amongst all age groups. Karuta consists of two types – Uta-garuta and Iroha-garuta.

Uta-garuta is similar to the poetry game played by nobility centuries ago; players match poems from one set of cards with another set based on clues given by a reader. Iroha-garuta involves matching syllables of Japanese characters to their corresponding cards.

In addition to these traditional card games, Japan has also embraced modern card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon trading card game. These games have gained immense popularity worldwide and have a significant fan following in Japan.

Why are Card Games so Popular in Japan

There are several reasons why card games are popular in Japan. For one, card games provide a social outlet where people can gather and have fun together. Many Japanese people enjoy playing card games with friends and family during special occasions like New Year’s Day or festivals.

Additionally, the competitive nature of many card games appeals to the Japanese culture, which values hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Card games require players to think strategically and make quick decisions under pressure – skills that many Japanese people appreciate.


In conclusion, card games have been a part of Japanese culture for centuries and continue to be popular today. From traditional games like Hanafuda and Karuta to modern ones like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon trading cards, there is no shortage of options for those who want to enjoy a good game of cards in Japan. So if you are ever in Japan, be sure to try your hand at some of these exciting card games!