Tanjiro Kamado is the protagonist of the enormously popular Demon Slayer manga and anime. The topic of this article are Tanjiro’s Hanafuda earrings, which he always wears. You’re going to find out what the Hanafuda earrings mean and why they are important.
Tajiro’s Hanafuda earrings are actually special Japanese playing cards placed on earrings. His earrings, which show red and white flowers, aren’t part of any official Hanafuda set and have been created specifically for the manga. They have a symbolic importance, as they represent Tanjiro’s relation to his ancestors, as well as the inheritor of the Breath of the Sun.
This article is going to explain everything we know about the Hanafuda earrings in Demon Slayer, as well as their official meaning in the real world. You’re also going to find out what they mean and how important they are in the universe of Demon Slayer.
What Are Hanafuda Earrings?
The Hanafuda earrings are a very specific pair of objects in the Demon Slayer manga and anime. Despite their usage in the franchise, in the real world, they have a completely different meaning and usage.
Hanafuda, which means “flower cards” in Japanese, is actually a deck of Karuta cards (traditional decks of Japanese playing cards), which was invented in the mid-16th century. With it, several board games of matching pairs are practiced, or fishing games, as they are known there.
In Japan, it is one of the two most popular karuta decks along with uta-garuta (“the game of a hundred poets”).
We are now going to explain the history of the Hanafuda cards and their significance in Japanese culture and folklore.
Although refined card games had been played in Japan by the nobility for years, they were not in general use, nor were they played by the lower classes. This changed in Tenmon’s eighteenth year (AD 1549) when Francis Xavier arrived in Japan.
His ship’s crew carried cards called Hombre (Portuguese 48-card deck) from Europe, and regulations for playing these, and more specifically, gambling card games, which became extremely popular with the Japanese people.
When Japan subsequently closed all contact with the Western world in 1633, foreign playing cards were banned. Despite this, they were still very popular. Private gambling during the Tokugawa shogunate was illegal. But since the card games themselves were not banned, the new cards were created with various designs to avoid restriction.
For example, an anonymous player designed a deck known as Unsun Karuta, whose cards were adorned with Chinese art: Chinese warriors, weaponry, armor, and dragons.
The deck consisted of 75 cards, and it did not become as popular as Western card games had been, simply due to the difficulty of becoming familiar with the system. When gambling with a particular deck design became too popular, the government banned those cards to restrict activity, which then prompted the creation of new cards.
This game of cat and mouse between the government and the rebel players resulted in the creation of many different designs. During the Edo era and the Meiwa, Anei, and Tenmei eras (c. 1765-1788), a game called Mekuri Karuta took the place of Unsun Karuta.
It was a 48-card deck divided into 4 suits of 12, and it became terribly popular and was one of the most common forms of gambling in this period. In fact, it became so commonly used for gaming that it was banned in 1791, during the Kansei era.
During the following decades, several new decks were developed and later banned because they were used almost exclusively for gambling.
However, the government began to realize that some form of the deck for card games would always be used by ordinary people, and it relaxed its laws against gambling. The result of all this was a game called Hanafuda, which combined traditional Japanese games with Western-style cards.
As hanafuda cards do not have numbers (the main purpose is to associate images) and it takes a long time to finish a game compared to other games, it has a partially limited use for betting.
However, it is still possible to gamble by assigning points to combinations of images. However, card games were no longer as popular as they had been, due to government repression in the past.
Hanafuda cards became more popular in modern times, when in 1889 Fusajirō Yamauchi founded the Nintendo company, and began making them by hand. The Japanese company saw tremendous growth in part because of yakuza, which used the deck in illegal casinos throughout the country, and which made card games popular in Japan again.
From the word yakuza (the Japanese mafia), the origin is unknown, but the belief that it comes from ya (8), ku (9), za (3) is widespread, since 8, 9, and 3 are 20 points, which is the worst hand in a variant of this card game.
Later, in 1950, the company expanded its objectives outside of Japan; Hiroshi Yamauchi, Fusajiro’s great-great-grandson and future president of Nintendo, made a deal with Disney to make Hanafuda cards with Disney characters.
Disney’s Hanafuda cards sold in the millions, giving Nintendo enough money to start other businesses. Today you can find video games manufactured by Nintendo, which allow you to play an electronic version of this traditional card game. Currently, the Hanafuda deck is commonly played in Japan, South Korea, and Hawaii, albeit under various names.
In Hawaii, it is called Sakura, Higobana, and sometimes Hanafura. In South Korea, the cards are called Hwatoo and the most common game is “Va Stop” (Go Stop). In South Korea, it is very common for it to be played during special holidays such as the lunar new years, and also during the Korean holiday of Chuseok.
Playing “Go Stop” with the family at holiday gatherings has become a part of Korean culture for many years. It is also played in the former Japanese colony of Micronesia, where it is known as Hanafuda.
Nintendo is now dedicated to the development of consoles and video games for them, but few know that in addition to Western cards, Nintendo still factories Hanafuda, although they are only distributed in the Japanese market.
So, as you can see, the Hanafuda earrings Tanjiro wears are actually based on a very old Japanese card game and the design of the earrings is based on the design of the cards themselves.
What Do Hanafuda Earrings Mean?
Now that we’ve explained the history behind the cards, we can address their meaning. Namely, the earrings themselves have a purely symbolical meaning, as they are an inheritance passed on to Tanjiro from his father. They also seem to represent the inheritors of the Breath of the Sun technique, which reaffirms their symbolic status.
On the other hand, actual Hanafuda cards have actual meanings. There are 48 main cards in total and their meaning is as follows:
There are also some extra cards:
As you can read, Tanjiro’s earrings don’t actually correspond to an actual Hanafuda card in real life. The initial design proved to be controversial, which is why the authors have changed it. We’re going to explain the reasons behind this in the next section.
Are Tanjiro’s Earrings a Representation of the Rising Sun?
A lot of controversies surrounded the earrings’ original design, as the drawing on the earrings bore a close resemblance to the so-called Rising Sun Flag, a flag used by Japan during World War II, under which a series of war crimes and atrocities were committed during that period.
This is why the original design was altered and the earrings don’t represent the Rising Sun anymore, but rather red and white flowers.
Who Gave Tanjiro His Earrings?
The Hanafuda earrings seem to be some sort of family heirloom, as far as Tanjiro is concerned. They’re still a pretty enigmatic pair so we don’t know that much about their true meaning in the series, but we do know that they are important and that they are connected both to Tanjiro’s ancestors and to Muzan, the franchise’s primary antagonist.
Before Tanjiro, the earrings have been worn by Tanjuro Kamado, Tanjiro’s father. During the Natagumo Mountain arc, Tanjiro had to fight against Lower Rank 5, Rui, and is almost killed by his Blood Demon Art when a flashback of his father resurfaces in his memories, telling him to breathe and become Hinokami.
Tanjiro then remembers himself and Nezuko when they were children, observing their father perform the Hinokami Kagura throughout the night. Tanjiro asked his mother how Tanjuro was able to perform the Hinokami Kagura despite the freezing night, only for her to tell him that there was a way to breathe so that his father could dance no matter the temperature.
Tanjuro then told Tanjiro to make sure that the Hanafuda earrings and the kagura got passed down uninterrupted, no matter what. In the present, Tanjiro then switches from the Water Breathing, Tenth Form: Constant Flux, to use the Hinokami Kagura: Dance, the technique he inherited from his father.
Why Are Hanafuda Earrings Important to Muzan?
In order to answer this question, we have to go even further back into the history of the world of Demon Slayer. Namely, Muzan was the first demon ever and he has a long history of fighting against Demon Slayers, which goes back to ancient times. When Muzan and Tamayo encountered the demon slayer Yoriichi Tsugikuni, his trouble with the earrings began.
At that very moment, Yoriichi felt Muzan’s evil, comparing him to boiling magma. At the same time, Muzan saw nothing in Yoriichi that seemed dangerous at all and he did not fear her. Being satisfied with Kokushibo as his subordinate at the time, Muzan attempted to kill Yoriichi without prior warning.
However, Yoriichi was able to evade the blows and clearly discovered Muzan’s weak spots, the seven hearts and five brains that move freely around his body. Yoriichi then combined all his forms into one strike and turned his blade bright red, which allowed him to cut through all of Muzan’s weaknesses and overpower him easily.
For the first time in his life, the eternal demon Muzan was stunned and unable to heal; he sat in a pool of his own blood and furiously glared at Yoriichi, who had just asked him what he thought was the value of a life.
When Yoriichi came forward to kill him, Muzan used the remains of whatever little power he had left and divided his body in a powerful burst that seemed like an explosion. Yoriichi was seemingly able to destroy nearly all the new fragments, but the pieces he missed ran away and allowed Muzan to regenerate again after a while.
Muzan was left with deep scars after this encounter and with Kokushibo’s assistance, the two rushed to kill anyone who used the Sun Breathing technique, thus hoping to prevent another Demon Slayer that had the power to kill him. They were almost successful and able to nearly exterminate Sun Breathing entirely.
Greatly fearful of the man he considered to be the real demon, Muzan never directly confronted the Demon Slayers again and sent demons to do his bidding, for the most part, not wanting to risk getting killed. He remains fearful of Yoriichi even after his death, though.
Why Does Muzan Hate Hanafuda Earrings?
So, how does the above story actually relate to the Hanafuda earrings? Well, and we kept that spoiler hidden on purpose (although it’s visible in the video), Yoriichi Tsugikuni, the demon slayer who almost killed Muzan, was wearing the Hanafuda earrings as his trademark.
That is why Muzan hates these earrings and that is why he is so afraid of them, but also why Tanjiro is going to play such a big role in the evolution of the series.
The only relevant issue is how Tanjiro even got ahold of the earrings as a family heirloom, since he is not directly related to Yoriichi or his family.
This story seems to be related to Sumiyoshi, a very old ancestor of the Kamado family. Sumiyoshi looks exactly like a younger Tanjiro and although we don’t really know the exact relation between them, Sumiyoshi is somehow related to the Kamado family.
Sumiyoshi also lived at the same time as Yoriichi and although the two of them are not related directly, there seems to have been a very close bond between them, although Demon Slayer needs to further elaborate on that aspect.
It is quite possible that Yoriichi gave the earrings to Sumiyoshi as a sign of friendship and that they have been passed on to the Kamado family as an heirloom to respect Sumiyoshi’s bond with Yoriichi.
This explains why Muzan was so afraid of these earrings, as they seem to represent the only Demon Slayer that could potentially slaughter him, which has until Yoriichi seemed to be an impossible task, as even Muzan thought himself invincible. Of course, we’ll just have to wait and see how the plot develops to receive more details on this issue.
What’s Wrong with Tanjiro’s Earrings?
Inherently, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Tanjiro’s earrings. The only issue with them has been explained above, and that was that they reminded people of the controversial Rising Sun Flag, but that has been cleared in the meantime.