Moon Rabbit Hanafuda

This blog is going to follow the Moon Rabbit Hanafuda decks, the impending Kickstarter and History of the cards.
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Hanafuda Suits- January

Kelsey Cretcher
United States
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One of the regular posts I’m going to be doing in this blog is a post for each of the months. Covering the flora and fauna presented in the original cards, and then my translation into my cards. So what better way to begin than with January, the first suit of Hanafuda? Sorry about the images, I need to resize and reupload, I'm terrible at formatting on here.
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The January Hanafuda is represented by the Matsu (Japanese pine) and contains a poetry ribbon and a Japanese Red Crested crane.
These all have winter significance and have been portrayed in art and writing for generations. While I cannot find any specific legend or folktale to link the Crane and Matsu together, their connection in art cannot be overlooked.
The reason for the connection (as far as I can tell) is both due to symbolism, and honest mistake.
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The Japanese pine has long been a representative of winter, as it is an evergreen and can withstand harsh temperatures without losing any needles. Its primary symbolism is longevity, as these trees are known to live 100s of years. Longevity, good luck, and resilience are what the matsu mean to people. It is also one of the ‘Three Friends of Winter’ (松竹梅 shō-chiku-ba) Bamboo, Pine and Plum that have become ingrained in Japanese Motifs.
These are all things that have also led it to be associated with the New Year. Often tied to gates at shrines for New Year’s festivals, this symbolism goes hand in hand with a pleasant new year. This makes the Matsu a perfect representative for the January cards.
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Japanese pine is a little different from the western variant. While still growing very tall, these trees tend to have more gnarly expressive trunks. That tend to grow in many different varieties rather than just straight up. (Think bonsai trees!)
In addition to this, they have great and expansive branches that have clusters of pine needles. This is something I challenged myself to work with in my illustrations, as the original cards just showed a close up of the needles. I wanted to express the uniqueness of the Japanese pine’s shape.

The major feature of this suit is its Bright card, the Japanese red-crowned crane. These cranes spend the majority of their year overseas in areas like Siberia. However come winters they migrate to Japan to brave the weather there. This makes them one of the recognizable winter birds of Japan and fitting of a winter card. In addition to this, these cranes live a very long time. One known to have lived 83 years in captivity, legend claimed they have lived to be thousands of years old. This has led them to also be associated with winter and longevity as well as good luck. Because they mate for life, they are also associated with weddings and good fortune in marriage! They have beautiful mating dances that make them appear like they are dancing for joy.
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Cranes and Matsu have been motifs in art together for years, with many paintings and poems referencing cranes nesting in Matsu trees, and perching atop them. But in reality the cranes didn't nest in the Matsu at all. So it’s believed that long ago they were mixed up with a tree dwelling stork, once living in Japan but were thought to have gone extinct (though they have found they aren't and have been working on getting the population up). The similarity in appearance and the crane’s similar symbolism with the Matsu has led to the crane being associated with the Matsu even though this might not have been the case in real life. Even though the actual crane might not have interacted with the matsu, it has become a well known an accepted image. The Hanafuda card is absolutely intended to be a crane, however the origin of the cranes association with the matsu may have been an accident.

Another aspect of this card, and one that I admittedly overlooked when designing the card, is the red sun on the crane card. When I first designed mine, I assumed that the sun was its color due to the limited palette of Hanafuda. However after more research I can’t help but wonder if the sun is red on purpose. Everyone knows the red sun from the Japanese flag, but not everyone knows the symbolism behind it. In Japanese mythology, Amaterasu is the sun goddess and believed to have created Japan, the Emperor of Japan is said to be a direct descendent of her. This has led the symbolism of the sun to be associated with creation, beginnings and longevity, the same symbolism as the January month. I’ve failed so far to find the reason for it being a red sun, other than the use of the red sun on the flag (which I also can’t find the reason for) so I’m not terribly disappointed in not thinking about it in my design but it’s started bugging me enough to research more.
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So I guess what that means is I’m considering changing it. It’d be an easy fix but maybe not a needed one, so I’m looking for opinions. Do any of you know more than I do about the symbolism of the red sun? Do you think it matters if this deck’s sun isn’t red? I’m leaning to changing it as a nod to the Japanese flag…
So that’s what I have for January so far, please feel free to add any knowledge!

My next post will be my first in my rules series. I’m hoping to balance knowledge about the cards, game rules, and Kickstarter updates to keep this exciting haha.
Thanks for joining me again!

-Kelsey Cretcher
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Nintendo "Mario Edition" 2015
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Nintendo "Pokemon Edition" 2013
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Nintendo "Club Nintendo Edition" 2007
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Miracle Fish "Original Style" Hwatu
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Miracle Fish "Black Edition" (for year of the Dragon) 2012

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Moon Rabbit Hanafuda "Graphic Edition" 2016
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Unknown Edition, but I need it

Poll: Change the sun?
Should I change the sun color for symbolism?
      4 answers
Poll created by KCretcher
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