Nintendo, one of the worlds leading game console manufacturers originally made and sold playing cards, but that isn’t all they did. They had a sordid, forgotten past that very few people even know about. Nintendo were involved in illegal gambling, pornography and even prostitution. Their involvement in these activities ran up until the late 1970’s. Perhaps their history explains why Mario abused Donkey Kong in the original Donkey Kong video game.
Nintendo playing cards
In 1886 the Japanese government legalised hanafuda playing cards. Three years later thirty-year-old Fusajiro Yamauchi, the founder of Nintendo opened his first shop selling producing hand-made hanafuda playing cards. The original building that housed Nintendo is now only a parking lot. Nintendo proudly promote their story as one of a rags to riches. But the truth is somewhat less sanitised.
Nintendo and illegal gambling
Hanafuda is a traditional card game that has been historically linked to organised crime. The area that Yamauchi set up shop in was teaming with organised crime, and hanafuda playing cards were used in gambling. Yamauchi had a ready and willing market place just outside his door. To compliment this, Nintendo introduced Tengu cards that were explicitly directed at gambling. In fact, Tengu had been the symbol for playing cards and illegal gambling. Nintendo soon started making and distributing nude playing cards.
Nintendo and prostitution
During the 1960’s Nintendo took the route that is least family friendly of all. Some time during that decade Nintendo acquired a “love” hotel. During the 1960’s and 1970’s love hotels were booming in Japan, and “guests” could rent a room for an hour or two to have sex. The hotels were often located in red light districts and ran in unison with the prostitution rings in the area. If you took your own prostitute to one of the hotels you would even receive a discount. They even had a taxi service that they used in conjunction with their love hotels to transport patrons to and from with.
With all that being said no one can deny the fact that Nintendo have stood the test of time. They started from humble beginnings and adapted to the financial environment surrounding them to become a world leading technology company.