The phoenix and crane designs are based on a card game from 18th century Japan called Hanafuda. Each of the 48 cards in the deck features a different image from the natural world, illustrating the ever-changing seasons. The images, though simple, have a symbolic meaning.
I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house as a kid, and one of my fondest memories is spending evenings playing Hanafuda with my grandma. We’d giggle excitedly as we took turns flinging the cards onto the wooden table as hard as we could, trying to make them land flat with a loud snapping sound. The crane and phoenix cards were two of my favorites, and I would often wait the entire game hoping the cards ended up in my hands. Each picture card, 48 in total, brings me back to a very special moment in time.
Looking back on my childhood, those evenings playing hanafuda are memories that conjure simultaneous feelings of joy and longing. I ache for those moments, though they are long gone; that house I spent so much of my childhood in has since been sold to new owners, my grandpa (to this day, the funniest person I’ve ever known) passed away in 2013, and my grandma, though alive and well at 97 years young, can no longer see the cards due to her deteriorating vision. Those hanafuda games were of little significance as a child, but oh, what I would give for one more evening like that.
See all men's pieces here