Iris [菖蒲 - あやめ, ayame] is the name of a suit in traditional hanafuda decks. It is generally taken to be the fifth suit, representing the month of May [五月 - ごがつ, gogatsu] or the numeral 5. The cards in this suit all feature bluish iris blossoms. There are two Chaff cards, one Plain Ribbon, and one Animal. The Animal card of the Iris suit features an Eight-Plank-Bridge [八橋 - やつはし, yatsuhashi] over a blue marsh.
The Bridge card does not feature prominently in the most popular hanafuda games, but does contribute to the generic Animal yaku in Go-Stop and Koi-Koi.
This card’s design is a reference to Section IX of the Tales of Ise, a compilation of prose and poetry from the 10-11th century, in which a man and his companions travel to the land of Eight Bridges in Mikawa province, a swampy land with a zigzag of bridges built over its branching rivers.
The Iris Ribbon combines with the Wisteria Ribbon and Bush Clover Ribbon in Go-Stop to form the “Grass Ribbons” yaku. In many other games it plays no special role other than contributing to generic Ribbon yaku.
The Iris suit, like most, contains two Chaff cards. In some designs, notably the [echigobana] pattern, these cards will each contain half of the following acrostic poem, possibly composed by Arihara no Narihira, from Section IX of the Tales of Ise. The first syllable of each line, when added together, spell “kakituhata,” an older pronunciation of “kakitsubata,” which is another name in Japanese for the iris.
|-||Karagoromo||I have a wife|
|-||kitutu narenisi||as close to me|
|-||tuma si areba||as a silken gown,|
|-||harubaru kinuru||and so I feel sad|
|-||tabi wo si zo omofu||to have journeyed so far.|