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Friday, November 14, 2014

100 year old Nintendo promotional calendar

Today's post is about a small, simple item, which is still of great value to me. It is possibly the oldest item in my collection.

Although it looks quite beat up and has a lot of scribblings on the front, I immediately recognized its importance when I first saw it up for sale by a shop selling old documents.

Nintendo promotional calendar, front

The item we talk about is a calendar that Nintendo give away to promote their business. The item measures 24 by 14 centimeters.

The front contains details about the company and the back shows a calendar.

Nintendo promotional calendar, back

When I spotted the date of the calendar, I became very excited: 大正四年 which stands for Taishō 4!

Taishō is the era in Japanese history when emperor Taishō reigned. This lasted from 1912 to 1926, and Taishō 4 is equal to 1915 in the Western calendar.

It dates from the year 大正四年 (Taishō 4) in the Japanese calendar

This means this calendar is a hundred years old. It must have been produced in 1915 or 1914! Nintendo had existed for 25 years at that time and was still managed by its founder Fujisarō Yamauchi.

Around this time Nintendo started expanding its distribution from the Kansai area around Kyoto and Osaka towards the rest of the country. Advertising and freebies like this calendar were undoubtably part of its drive to establish a national brand.

The calendar shows the 12 months of 1915, from January to December. This Western type of calendar had become common in Japan from the Meiji period starting in 1876.

The month are presented from top to bottom and from right to left, as was the common orientation of Japanese documents until more recent times. So we find January (一月) in the top right corner and December (十二月) in the bottom left corner.

Months with 31 days are marked with the kanji for 'big' (小) and months with 30 days are marked with the kanji for 'small' (小).

The front of the card is in pretty bad shape. A long time ago, somebody has used it to practice his/her writing skills and traced and copied some kanji in ink.

However, after some hard work with Photoshop (thank you Flo), it was possible to clean most of it on the scan, and reveal the original design.

At the top of the front, it states 'Marufuku Nintendo Co.,'.

This name and the related trade mark logo has been in use by Nintendo as a brand name from the early days. It is still used today on some of the traditional cards produced by Nintendo.

Centrally placed in red is the phrase 'Card Factory', which defines the business Nintendo was in at the time. It is clear that they have left the local craft-shop stage behind them at this stage, and are now a factory, aiming to produce cards in large volumes.

The Japanese text in red (かるた製造元) also means 'card factory'.

The five large kanji underneath this (山内任天堂) spell Yama-uchi-Nin-ten-dō, reading from right to left, as does all Japanese text on the card. This was the company name used until the 1950s, when it changed to just Nintendo.

A noteworthy fact is that Nintendo had no less than two telephone lines at this time. Shimo is an area in Kyoto.

And Nintendo had two bank accounts, one in Osaka and one in Tokyo.

The address on the card is the location of Nintendo's first shop and workplace.

This is the place where Nintendo was established back in 1889.

Given the importance of Nintendo in Japanese history, this building should have become a national heritage. But unfortunately, it was torn down in 2004 to make room for a parking lot.

Nintendo's birthplace
(picture taken by I. Yamazaki)

This 1915 calendar is a nice reminder from these early days at Nintendo.

For a more extensive visit to the Nintendo's place of birth, check out this post.


  1. An amazing find! Too bad Nintendo or some other party didn't try to save the lot before it was torn down.

  2. They sent these calendars out to customers who registered 10 or more hanafuda decks that year.

    1. Lol! And you had to register by sending a code by pigeon to the office in Kyoto.

  3. "Given the importance of Nintendo in Japanese history, this building should have become a national heritage. But unfortunately, it was torn down in 2004 to make room for a parking lot."

    A shame the city couldn't save it.

  4. Such a shame the card was scribbled on and the building came down would have made a great mini museum for prized pieces. Great work in photoshop flo!

    1. These things just happen without concern for the future, Neil.

  5. Truly amazing item. You own a Nintendo History's treasure. I would have loved to see a Nintendo useum on its original location, my heart is broken when I think that a parking lot was more important that preserving that place...

  6. Yes, it is really a shame that this building no longer exists. On a positive note, Nintendo's next office (built in the 1930s) does still exist and is still owned by Nintendo. When in Kyoto, do check it out as it has a great exterior (it is not open to the public, though).

  7. You know, in Japanese ontology, the actual original material of the building doesn't matter for something to be itself "original". Many historical landmarks, castles especially, were rebuilt after being burned down, and in some cases even moved, and they're still considered "the original", so I would think there's still a chance to have a landmark in so far as there's enough pictures of the original building to recreate it

  8. They should do that