Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rare photos of Nintendo's playing card factory in the 1960s

In the previous post about my recent get together with Isao Yamazaki in Tokyo, I mentioned that Isao showed me some vintage photos taken at Nintendo's playing card factory. In this post we will take a closer look at these special glimpses into Nintendo's past.

Although I am not sure about the exact date these pictures were taken, I believe they are from the late 1960s, as they also appear in a company overview from 1970.

The first three pictures below show the various steps of the production of Hanafuda cards. Hanafuda are the traditional Japanese playing cards that Nintendo started producing as their first product in 1889.

Since those early days, when the cards were made completely by hand in a small workshop, the production process has come a long way. At the time these pictures were taken, the cards were mass produced in a semi-automated factory, with machines supporting the multiple manual steps carried out by a large army of women and a handful of men operating the larger machines.

Stories about the career of Nintendo's star inventor Gunpei Yokoi always mention that his early days at Nintendo were spent as maintenance engineer of the Hanafuda production line. These pictures give a good feeling of the kind of environment this was.

The last two photos show the production of Western style playing cards, so called Trump cards. The picture below shows a printing and drying line for sheets of cards.

The final picture shows a machine that cuts these sheets into individual cards. These are collected in wooden boxes labeled "Nintendo Trump" (任天堂トランプ) before they are wrapped together as decks of cards.

Photos reproduced by kind permission of Isao Yamazaki. Check out his book (in Japanese) about Nintendo's toys and games here.

For colour versions of these pictures and a much more extensive tour of the Nintendo offices and factories from around this time, check out this post.


  1. Hi there! I visited your booth at the Gamescom on Thursday. (Long hair, white Project A-Ko shirt iirc) I hope you had a good time in cologne and a safe trip back home. It was so awesome to see all this cool stuff, like the light telephone or the building blocks for real :)
    Anyway, keep up the great work

    1. Thanks! We had a great time at Gamescom. Nice to hear you liked it.