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Competitive Karuta

A presentation on an aspect of Japanese culture, for Ms. Kurokawa's Intro to Japanese course.
by

Athie Lestrade

on 14 June 2013

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Transcript of Competitive Karuta

Omi Jingu
Brief Overview
When competitive karuta started during the 19th century, the rules varied greatly by region. During the 20th century the newly forme
d
Karuta Association
enforced rules that were applied to all games, allowing tournaments to be played across Japan.

The Japanese national championship tournament takes place every January at
Omi Jingu
, in the
Shiga
prefecture. Th
e title of
Meijin
is awarded to the male winner, and the title of
Queen
goes to the female winner. Together, they are referre
d to as the
Grand Champions
. A seven time winner,
is furthermore given the title of
Eternal Master.

Though karuta is quite popular in Japan, there are as few as 10,000 who play competitively, and only approximately 2,000 above
C rank
.
Karuta Cards
There are two decks present in a game of Karuta; the
yomifuda
(or reading cards) and the
torifuda
(or playing cards).

Yomifuda
, consisting of 100 cards include a picture of the poet as well as the complete
tanka
poem. There are also 100
torifuda
, but these only have the second verse of the poem and no picture.

Only 50 of the
torifuda
cards are used in a match, 25 going to each player. However, all of the
yomifuda
cards are used. The 50
torifuda
not in play are referred to as
ghost cards
or
dead cards
as they can still be called by the reader.
An example of a set of karuta cards
(torifuda, left; yomifuda, right.)
How do you play Karuta?
Competitive karuta is a one-on-one game, facilitated by a
reader

(who
reads out the
yomifuda
cards)
and a
judge
. Each player chooses 25
torifuda
cards and places them face-up in three rows on their territory (87cm wide, 3cm from opp. territory).

Players are given 15 minutes to memorize the cards' positions. As soon as the time's up the
reader
recites the opening poem (which isn't part of the
Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
.) This allows the players to familiarize themselves with the
reader
's voice and rhythm.

Following this, the reader calls out one of the 100
yomifuda
. The first player to touch the
torifuda
card with the correct second verse takes the card, removing it from play. The first player to reduce their cards to zero, wins the match.
A presentation by Charlotte D.
Competitive
(Karuta)
The 100 Poems
English:
"Naniwa Bay, now the flower blooms, but for winter. Here comes spring, now the flower blooms."

Romaji:
"Naniwa-zu ni/Sakuya Kono Hana/Fuyu-gomori/Ima wo haru-be to/Sakuya kono hana."
The opening poem:
Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
essentially means "One hundred people, one poem [each]." It was compiled by
Fujiwara no Teika
while he lived in the
Ogura
district of Kyoto.

One of
Teika
's diaries, the
Meigetsuki
, says that his son asked him to compile the poems for the son,
Tame'ie
's father-in-law who was furnishing a residence near
Mount Ogura
(hence the full name of
Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
.)

So it came to be that
Teika
amassed one hundred poems by a hundred different authors
. Karuta cards are based off these poems, and each of the 100 cards holds a poem.
How do you play Karuta? (Cont.)
Otetsuki
: False touches, faults.

Touching the wrong card in the correct territory is not a penalty. As a result players often knock away surrounding cards.
Touching the wrong card in the wrong territory is a penalty, and the opponent may
send
a card to the player
who made the false touch.
If a player touches the wrong card in the opponent's territory and the opponent touches the correct card in the faulting player's territory it's a double fault, resulting in a two card penalty.
If a player touches any card when a
dead card
is read, it's a double fault and they incur a two card penalty.
Full transcript