Many games are played in anime that are historic in Japanese culture, however, in our own respective cultures they are quite mysterious. Such mystery lies in the game of Karuta to many people outside of Japan. In the popular anime, Chihayafuru, Karuta is introduced as a long and arduous game but fun overall. Karuta has an interesting history that has coincided with Japanese culture since the 16th century.
While Karuta is quite popular in Japan, it did not originate there. You may have played a similar game by matching clam shells as a child, this came from a 12th century Portuguese game. The Portuguese sailors then brought this game to Japan where they chose to play this matching game with cards instead. This game was popularized by the samurai and later broke into modern Karuta during the Edo period. There are two types of Karuta that can be played, Uta-Garuta and Iroha Karuta. Uta-Garuta was a game of poems. Each card has half of each poem and it has to be matched to the remainder of the poem. An easier form of the game would be Iroha Karuta, which is more similar to the original Portuguese counterpart. The cards must be matched and are often played with Japanese characters. The cards that Karuta is played with have a European flair to them. Known as “carta” to the Japanese, this word eventually evolved into “Karuta.” In Japan, there is an official Japanese Karuta Association that has influenced the game of Karuta and made official rules for its national competition which is held annually. This game is also often used for gambling.
Official Karuta, or Uta-Garuta as mentioned above, is the most commonly played form of Karuta. This game is played with 200 cards and two people. The first half of the deck is placed in a pile that contains the first half of all the poems. The second person then gets 15 minutes to place their 100 cards in a strategic pattern and memorize them. Once the 15 minutes are up, the player then flips over his or her cards and the game begins. The reader then reads the first half of the poem and the other person must remember where they put the second half. While this may seem like a simple task, it is definitely a challenge to remember where you put 100 cards, even after just seeing them. At a national competition, the competitors have snake-like reflexes and incredible memorization.
There are many, much simpler forms of Karuta that have originated as a result of its popularity. However, while this game may seem difficult and time-consuming, it is an excellent way to exercise your mental stamina and hand-eye coordination. I hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned something new. We now will let you go forth with your new knowledge and try your own hand at this fascinating game. As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, we ask you to leave them in the comments below.