Leave Luck to Heaven

Sorry for not posting last Tuesday. After being out all day, I came home with a bad headache, took two aspirin and went straight to bed. Instead of waking up an hour or so later as I had hoped, I slept until Wednesday morning…

So, I have to tell my Tuesday story today: I met one of my English students then and we started to talk about the big companies that have their headquarters in Kyoto instead of in Tokyo. Among them are Wacoal (women’s underwear), ROHM (semiconductors), Kyocera (printers, phones, solar cells) and, probably most famous world-wide: Nintendo. We got to talk about the early history of Nintendo, something most people don’t know about, and my student asked me to share the information – and I’m happy to do this today.

Nintendo 1889 logoNintendo is a very old company, founded in 1889 in Kyoto. The name’s Kanji can be translated as “leave luck to heaven”. At first, the company produced handmade hanafuda playing cards, which were quite popular because of their simple design. However, those cards were almost always used for gambling, something the government tried to restrict, especially from the Meiji period. One way out of this was to produce different sets of cards every time one particular game became illegal. However, in 1959, Nintendo had a brilliant idea: They made a deal with the Disney company, allowing them to use Disney designs on their playing cards. In this way, the cards could be marketed to families with children – and in one year, more than 600.000 packs were sold.

Eventually, from 1966, when the market for playing cards was saturated, Nintendo became a toy company, and in the early 1970s, Nintendo started to produce electronic games. The rest is history. 😉

I did not know about the early beginnings of Nintendo, but I will look more into the hanafuda playing cards and the (illegal) games one would play with those. I love learning something new!