Pine [松 - まつ, matsu] is the name of a suit in traditional hanafuda decks. It is generally taken to be the first suit, representing the month of January [一月 - いちがつ, ichigatsu] or the numeral 1. The cards in this suit all feature pine trees. There are two Chaff cards, one Poetry Ribbon, and one Bright. The Bright card of the Pine suit features a crane [鶴 - つる tsuru] among the pines as well as a red sun in the top corner of the card.
The Crane, being one of the only 5 Bright cards in the standard deck, is important for making high-scoring yaku in many games, as well as being desirable in its own right in many games that assign point values to individual cards.
In Koi-Koi, the Crane plays a role in the series of Bright yaku. In Mushi, it is necessary for making the two most valuable yaku: with the other 4 Brights it can form “5 Brights,” and when combined with the Bush Warbler and Curtain it forms “3 Brights.” In Six Hundred it can be used to make “Four Brights” (which is an instant win), “Pine, Paulownia, Baldy,” (which combines the card with the Phoenix and Moon cards) and “3 Brights” (in the same combination used in Mushi).
In the standard hanafuda design, the Ribbon on this card features the phrase aka-yoroshi written in hiragana, using a hentaigana character in place of the standard “ka.” This refers to one name of the yaku known more commonly today as aka-tan, or “Red Ribbons,” which includes this card as well as the Ribbons of the Plum Blossom and Cherry Blossom suits, and is featured in a large number of games.
The Pine suit has two Chaff cards, often with one card’s imagery weighted towards the left, and the other towards the right. In the Echigo-Bana pattern, each of these will carry one half of the following waka poem composed by Minamoto no Muneyuki “at a poetry contest held in the palace of the Empress in the Kanpyō era” (889-897).
|ときはなに||Toki ha nani||Now that spring has come,|
|松の緑も||matsu no midori mo||the green of the pines|
|春くれば||haru kureba||that never changes|
|今ひとしほの||ima hitoshiho no||more and more|
|色まさりけり||iro masari keri.||improves its color.|
Fairbairn, John. “The Poems of the Echigobana.” Journal of the International Playing Card Society, Edited by Trevor Denning, XIV, no. 4, May 1986, pp. 97–102.