Plum Blossom [梅 - うめ, ume] is the name of a suit in traditional hanafuda decks. It is generally taken to be the second suit, representing the month of February [二月 - にがつ, nigatsu] or the numeral 2. The cards in this suit all feature plum blossom trees with red blooms and buds. There are two Chaff cards, one Poetry Ribbon, and one Animal. The Animal card of the Plum Blossom suit features a Japanese bush warbler [鴬 - うぐいす, uguisu] perched on the branch of a plum blossom tree.
In a few games, including Tensho, an alternate month ordering is used, with the Plum Blossom suit representing December or the number 12 instead.
The Bush Warbler is also known as the “Nightingale” in some English sources. In Koi-Koi it contributes to the generic “Animals” yaku, but in other games it may take on a more specific role. In Go-Stop, for instance, it combines with the Cuckoo and Geese to make the valuable “Five Birds” yaku.
In most versions of Six Hundred the Bush Warbler is a de-facto Bright card, being worth more points than the other Animals, and forming the “Big Three” yaku when combined with the Crane and Curtain. The same combination of cards is also used in other games, including Mushi where the yaku is called “Three Brights.”
Like the Pine Ribbon, the Ribbon on this card usually features the text aka-yoroshi in hiragana. This phrase is one name of the “Poetry Ribbons” yaku that consists of this card, the aforementioned Pine Ribbon, and the Cherry Blossom Ribbon. This yaku shows up in a large number of games, including Koi-Koi, Go-Stop Six Hundred, and Hachi-Hachi, and may also go by “Red Ribbons,” “Little Three,” or other names.
As with most suits, there are two Chaff cards in the Plum Blossom suit, often with one card featuring a branch coming from the lower left and the other card featuring a branch coming from the lower right. In some patterns, including Echigo-Bana, each of the cards is inscribed with half of the following waka poem penned by an unknown author.
|-||Uguhisu no||The nightingale’s|
|-||nakioto ha siruki||song is clear|
|-||ume no hana||and the white plum blossom|
|-||iro magahedo ya||becomes lost|
|-||yuki no fururan.||in the falling snow.|
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.