Hello again everyone!! Today’s post is one that I have been wanting to write for a while, but for some reason had not gotten around to yet. I actually wrote a little bit about it back when I reviewed Chihayafuru but I had always wanted to do a separate post on it. I feel like theme of this Anniversary Month should have been “the posts I have not gotten around to yet”. Hmmm…anyway, since it was recently announced that one of my favorite anime, Chihayafuru, was getting an English dub I figured it would be a good way to celebrate it with this post. It has also been a very long time since I did a “What IS That?” post on the blog so I figured it would be a good way to bring that back as well. So today we are talking about the Japanese card game Karuta, and if the representation of it in Chihayafuru is accurate. So here is the 3rd What IS That? post:
What IS Karuta?
Karuta was actually first introduced to the Japanese by some Portuguese traders during the 1500s. It is a combination of a shell-matching game played in the 12th century. Back then, a pair of clam shells were painted with matching pictures or poetry and laid face down. Whoever matched the most pairs would win, kind of like the matching games that we have now. Then in the 16th century some Portuguese sailors brought over European playing cards that the Japanese knew as “carta”. During the Edo period, it evolved to a combination of the two and became a well-known Japanese tradition. Karuta cards eventually became mass produced so every family could have a deck. There are two main types of Karuta that are played in Japan, Uta-Garuta and Iroha Karuta. Iroha Karuta is a much easier game, featuring famous Japanese proverbs, and is usually played by children. There are two sets of 48 cards, with a total of 96 total during each game. The other type, Uta-Garuta, means “poem cards” and is split into two sets of cards, 200 in total, that contain a waka poem. One set of cards is used for reading (yomifuda) and there is a corresponding card with the same poem on it and is a “grabbing card” (torifuda). Other kinds of kauta cards can have regions on them, famous people, places, you name it and it can be made into a karuta game.
The karuta played in Chihayafuru is competitive karuta (kyougi karuta)and is only one way you can actually play. The cards used in competitive karuta is the most common type of deck and is made up the 100 Ogura Hyakunin Isshu poems that were compiled by Fujiwara no Teika. The poems are written by famous men and women poets from the era. To start 50 cards of the original 100 are picked out of the deck (at random) with the other 50 known as “dead cards”. Those 50 cards are then split in half between two players. These cards only consist of the second half of the poem. Players then place the cards in a specific pattern and have 15 minutes to memorize the cards, and two more minutes to practice their swing. Play begins when a reader reads a poem not in the deck and then proceeds to pick a reading card out of a box. As they read the poem, the plays search for the corresponding grabbing card and whoever touches it first wins. Something that can happen in mere seconds of the card being read. When you win a card, you place it on a pile and then hand over one of your cards to your opponent. If you happen to touch the wrong card or a dead card it is called a “fault” and your opponent can hand over a card for each fault you committed.
The All-Japan Karuta Association was founded in 1957 and works to organize karuta events all over Japan, as well as keep track of the rules. Many tournaments are broadcast on television, the most popular of hich is the New Year’s National Championship held at Omi Shrine in Shiga Prefecture every January. That tournaments is when the male and female championships are crowned as the Master and Queen respectively. If a player happens to win seven times they are given the titled Eternal Queen or Eternal Master. There is also an international tournament that started in 2012.
So how does Chihayafuru’s karuta differ from the actual karuta game? Well it does not. It is an accurate representation of the traditional game played in Japan. At times, it could explain things a little bit better, but as things happen the characters often explain what is going on. Which is handy. It also does not really talk about the different kinds of karuta there are, but it does go into detail how competitive karuta works. It shows us the shrine they go to for nationals, the way it appears on TV, and how it is played in a lot of Japanese elementary schools. Pretty spot on if you ask me. It is really an interesting thing to watch and get into, and boy can you get into those tournaments sometimes. I guess we will so though how it translates when the dub comes around. Fingers crossed I guess.
What do you guys think? Have you seen Chihayafuru? Was karuta interesting to you? Have you tried playing it? I did once with a normal deck of playing cards and it was actually a whole lot of fun. Give it a try if you are bored! Oh! Have you played karuta? Anything else you want to add? Leave it down in the comments below!!
See you next time!!