Saturday, May 20, 2023

Nintendo's Games for Adult

Nintendo is generally considered to be making games for kids (of all ages, of course). However, in its long history, it also focussed part of its attention specifically on adults. 

Nintendo's Games for Adult (leaflet, outside) 

This little brochure is a nice example of this.

It is roughly A4 in size, with two folds, and is titled "Nintendo's Games for Adult" (sic).

It features traditional games that adults might play: Chess, Checkers, Domino, Roulette, Poker and Mah-jongg. The front of the leaflet even mentions Dice and Bingo Game, though these are not actually included inside.

There is no direct indication of a publishing date on this, but it is most likely from the early 1960s. Nintendo used the company name "Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd." between 1950 and 1963. Because this is a full color print on shiny paper, it feels more to be from the end part of that period.

Also, and more importantly, it is aimed at an English speaking audience. During the 1960s and 1970s, Nintendo increased its effort to expand its market outside of Japan (examples here and here), and this would fit right into that as an early example. [The first real break-trough abroad would come with Ten Billion and Game & Watch, but that is a different story.]

Still, I am speculating here about its age, and could be wrong.

The leaflet is aimed at importers and distributors of games, indicating wholesale box details like number of units included, size of the box and weight. 

The games listed are dedicated chess or checker sets. Nintendo also produced sets that featured both options, with a board that can be flipped depending on which of the two to play, but these are not shown here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Kyoto Souvenir Playing Cards, closer look part 2

We continue with the second part of detailed look at each of the individual cards in Nintendo Kyoto Souvenir playing cards from the 1950s. The first part can be found here.


The diamonds cards show a wide variety of landmarks and topics related to Kyoto:

  • The Kamikamo Shrine (上賀茂神社)
  • The Mifune Festival (三船祭)
  • The Hozu Rapid (保津急流)
  • The Golden pavilion (金閣寺)
  • The Tower of Toji Temple (五重塔, 東寺)
  • Maiko, Geisha Apprentice (舞妓)
  • Kyoto Minami-za Theater (南座)
  • The Ryoanji Temple (竜安寺)
  • Kyoto Station (京都駅)
  • Kyoto Prefectural Government (京都府庁)
  • The Silver Pavilion (銀閣寺)
  • City Hall (京都市役所)
  • Gion Festival (祇園祭)

Kyoto Souvenir Playing Cards, closer look part 1

In this post we will take a closer look at the each of the individual cards in the 1950's Nintendo Kyoto Souvenir deck.

The virtual tour is split up over two posts. Here is the first half, with the spades and hearts. The other half, with diamonds and clubs, can be found here.

Let's take a tour around Nintendo's hometown!


Of course we start with the spades, in particular with the ace of spades. Besides this trademark card, the images on the cards cover the following landmarks and events in Kyoto:

  • The Fushimi-inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)
  • The Higashihongangi Temple (東本願寺)
  • The Honnoji Temple (本能寺)
  • The Tofukuji Temple (東福寺)
  • The Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮)
  • Maruyama Park (円山公園)
  • Thirty-Three-Span Hall (三十三間堂)
  • The National Art Museum (京都国立博物館)
  • The Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺)
  • The Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺)
  • The Tower of Sanpoin Temple (醍醐寺, 五重塔)
  • Jidai Matsuri (時代祭)

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Nintendo Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards, at last

This is a story about a very special item in my collection, the Nintendo Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards.

Nintendo's hometown Kyoto

Kyoto is famous for many things. Before Tokyo, it was the official capital of Japan for over a thousand years, and it is still considered the cultural capital. With hundreds if not thousands of historical sites, it is a major tourist attraction for domestic and foreign visitors.

Kyoto is also the town where Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi, 133 years ago. It has remained the heart of the company's operation to this day.

If you would check Mario's passport, and that of countless other Nintendo creations, you would find Kyoto as the place of birth.

A nice example of the tie between Nintendo and Kyoto is this photo taken at the start of the year in 1949. Nintendo was already sixty years old at the time.

The photo shows a group of (or all?) company employees posing in front of the gate of the Fushimi-inari Shrine, located in the Fushimi ward in the south of Kyoto. This shrine is a popular location to celebrate the start of the new year, one of the most important traditions in Japan.

The gate of this shrine can easily be recognized by the two fox statues standing on either side in front of it.

This photo is a great document of the company at the time. Unfortunately we do not know who all people are that we see here, in their best kimonos and suits. We suspect that the company president at the time, Fusajiro's successor Sekiryo Yamauchi, must be in it. As well as his grandson and future president Hiroshi Yamauchi. But we do not know for sure.

What is undoubtably clear, is that this is a company that is part of the fabric of the city of Kyoto. The two banners on either side of the picture state "Kyoto Nintendo" (京都任天堂).

This connection between Nintendo and Kyoto has remained strong ever since, as is also evident from the images below, taken from a Nintendo company guide from 2012.

Although the company's playfield has become global, Nintendo conducts that business from one place: Kyoto.

Nintendo Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards

From the moment I first saw the content of the 1950s company report shown below, I have been searching for a particular set of Nintendo playing cards.

This deck, called Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards, was presented in this document together with many other types of playing cards that Nintendo offered at the time. Of all the products included in this catalogue, this one intrigued me the most.

The concept of playing cards with photos aimed at tourists is not original in itself.