Saturday, June 11, 2022

Nintendo Takarazuka playing cards (宝塚 トランプ) from the early 1950s

In this post, we will take a look at one of the first, possibly the first, set of Nintendo playing cards with licensed figures.

These cards from the early 1950s (1952 or before) feature popular actresses from the so-called Takarazuka Revue. This is a musical company based in Takarazuka, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.

What is special about this group, is that it is all-female. Actresses play either female or male roles. The group was established in 1913 and is active and well known in Japan to this day.

These actresses can be considered the idols of their time, and Nintendo brought out playing cards with pictures of the most famous and popular stars, in a deck called Takarazuka playing cards (宝塚 トランプ). It cost 300 yen.

One these actresses, Kaoru Yachigusa (八千草 薫), can be seen endorsing the Nintendo Takarazuka playing cards in the ad below:

"Your destiny. Fortune-telling with Nintendo Takarazuka playing cards." (あなたの運命を。任天堂宝塚トランプで占ひませう。)

The design of the back of the cards includes musical notes around the edges, and the logo for the Takarazuka Revue in the middle, with the letters "TOC".

"TOC" is short for the Takarazuka Opera Company.

In the Nintendo ad below, we see a group of people playing a card game while camping outdoors.

If we look closer, we can see that they are playing with the same Takarazuka playing cards!

A picture of an actress is shown on the joker card and on all of the high value cards (jack, queen, king), thirteen in total.

Each picture also includes a printed autograph from that particular actress.

Let's take a closer look at these cards.

Actresses that play male or female roles can be easily identified.

Unfortunately, the king of clubs is missing from this deck. Is this just a coincidence, or was a special someone featured on this card?

For more information about Nintendo's playing cards from this era, check out this previous post.

UPDATE 2024: I recently found another copy of these cards, with the box! More info here.

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