Hanafuda Nā Pua Hawaiʻi

Hanafuda Na Pua Hawaii

Hanafuda Nā Pua Hawaiʻi is the third product I developed for Hanafuda Hawaii. It replaces the traditional Japanese plants and animals on the hanafuda cards with native Hawaiian flora and fauna. The name Hanafuda Nā Pua Hawaiʻi is a hybrid of Japanese and Hawaiian, which translates to “the Flowers of Hawaiʻi Flower Cards.”

The purpose of creating the Hanafuda Nā Pua Hawaiʻi cards was to make a version of hanafuda that could be used to teach people about the native ecology of Hawaiʻi. Some goals I had were to make the plants and animals culturally important, to be respectful of Hawaiian culture, and to have hanafuda players be able to make an easy transition to playing with the new cards.

The first step was research. I read books about native Hawaiian plants and animals, and about Hawaiian history, crafts, agriculture, medicine, and religion. I took about six months to read everything I could find. Reading gave me a general idea of where to start. I started sketching out ideas of which plants could be used for the suits. My goal was to make the Hawaiian content as rich as the Japanese cards, with each plant and animal having particular meaning, and have popular stories imbedded in the imagery. I also worked to be culturally sensitive and not represent incorrect interpretations. I shared the initial sketches with native Hawaiian educators and asked for their advice. They generously gave invaluable insight, which was critical to finding the right choices for each suit.

I used a more naturalistic style of illustrating the cards. I want people to be able to recognize the real plants from looking at the cards. Even though they are drawn in a naturalistic style, the plants are still an idealized representation. I designed the cards to function as a game first, and an educational tool second. I often drew the flowers proportionally much larger than they actually grow, and combined features from different varieties of plants. Emphasizing the flowers and adding color in the background helps players distinguish the different suits. 

I used the same process to draw the Hanafuda Nā Pua Hawaiʻi cards as I used with the Hanafuda Hawaii Style cards. I made vector drawings of parts from sketches, and assembled the images on the cards from them. After I had completed a functional set of cards, I hand made a few sets to test. After several rounds of testing and refining, I took the cards back to the Hawaiian advisors for their opinions. Again, they generously gave me important insight. I made final changes according to their advice.

Hanafuda Nā Pua Hawaiʻi has been very successful among local Hawaiʻi residents. It also makes a great souvenir for visitors. Like the Hanafuda Hawaii Style cards, I wrote online instructions with notes on the plants and animals, and their cultural significance. I also created an animated instructional video.