July 1, 2013

by Keisuke Togashi & Hosokawa Kenichi

Have you ever heard the name “Nintendo”?  Yes, of course, everyone knows this name because of games such as Wii and 3DS. It’s a world famous electronic game company.  I guess most of you have played some kind of game from Nintendo, but did you know that this company started in Kyoto?

The Beginning

On September 23,1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi, an industrial artist, made a company named “Nintendo-Karuta” in Kyoto city, near Heian Shrine.  This was the beginning of the history of Nintendo.  At first they only made and sold ‘hana-fuda’ and nothing else (‘hana-fuda’ is a traditional card game played in Japan).  Their cards were first sold in Osaka and Kyoto, and later became very famous throughout the Kinki area.  After that, ‘hana-fuda’ became a hit with gamblers, and the company grew bigger.  Pro gamblers used new cards for each new game, so earnings from card sales rapidly increased.  Yamauichi, however, wasn’t satisfied only selling these cards, so his company started to produce trump cards and began selling them in Japan in 1907. He also planned to expand his company with the sale of these trump cards, and to do this he focused on collaboration with a tobacco company.  This was because the packets used for cigarettes and the trump cards were about the same size.  They were also both used by people when gambling.  After successful negotiations with the Japan Tobacco Company, ‘hana-fuda’ became very well known to the public and were sold all over Japan.  Thereafter, Nintendo-Karuta became the biggest card making company in Japan.

Nintendo Headquarters

Nintendo Headquarters


Paper to Electronics

The first president of Nintendo, Mr. Yamauchi, died in January 1940. After his death, the grandson of the second president was installed as the third president. He introduced a lot of big hit products, such as Disney trump cards and rulebooks. However, he was not only looking at the cards business. He also had intentions on moving into management of the taxi, hotel, and food industries.  Unfortunately, he was largely unsuccessful in this.  Then, in 1964, the Tokyo Olympics was held, and people in Japan were very excited about it.  Following this, they finally lost interest in trump cards, and production was stopped.

Nintendo continued to invent a lot of entertainment goods, but they didn’t sell that well. It was then that a decision was made to go into the electronics field in the toy industry.  No other companies were pushing in this area, and it seemed the only way to make a comeback.

Nintendo Games

The first T.V game for the family was made to fill an order from Mitsubishi.  In the mid-1970s, a famous table electronic game, “Space Invaders” was produced and became a real smash in Japan.  From that point on, many kinds of games were made and distributed by Nintendo.  In the 1980s, Nintendo founded a new company in America call “NOA” Nintendo Of America.  At first, Nintendo in Japan tried to sell a game called “Radar Scope” in America, but it didn’t work well.  After this, another game was made with a character named “Mr. Videogame”.  This character was later to be renamed “Mario”.  In 1981, “Donkey Kong” was introduced and in this game, players had to move Mario around and rescue Princess Peach from the giant gorilla ‘Donkey Kong’ by jumping and climbing over obstacles.  Through all this activity, Nintendo achieved the honor of being acknowledged as the world’s best game creation company.

After the First TV Game

Next, Nintendo decided to focus on the market for businessmen who needed to kill time while riding the Shinkansen. From this, the first portable game, “Mr. Game & Watch”, was created in 1980.  The initial target was mainly adults, but many children also liked it, so this portable game became a huge hit in Japan. A few years later, the king of portable games, ‘Game boy’ was created.

Computer Games for the Family

1983 - Family Computer (Fami-Kon)

1985 - “Super Mario Brothers” (the first big hit game from Nintendo)

1996 – Nintendo 64 (first 3D graphics)

1998 – Game boy Color (first full color portable game)

2001 – Nintendo Game cube

2004 – Nintendo DS (first touch screen game)

2006 – Wii (first wireless remote and internet service)

2011 – 3DS (world’s first 3D portable game)

2012 – Wii U

After the success of the Super Mario series, Nintendo became more famous than ever. Almost every Japanese citizen knew the name “Nintendo”, and it soon went global.  No one could ever have predicted that the simple ‘hana-fuda’ Company that almost went under many times, would go on to become the world’s most famous game company.

Address and Access

Kyoto city Minami-ku Kamitoba, Hokotate-cho 〒601-8501

About 7 minutes on foot from Karasuma Jujo subway station (exit 3 or 4)
About 5~10 minutes by taxi from JR Kyoto station

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