Kyoto welcomes new year with traditional card game
BY TAKUMI OKADA STAFF WRITER
People wearing traditional dress from the Heian Period play the Karuta card game on Jan. 3 at Yasakajinja shrine in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward. (Kazunori Takahashi)Players pay close attention to the cards on Jan. 3 at Yasakajinja shrine in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward. (Kazunori Takahashi)
Kimono-clad kids and young people gathered on Jan. 3 at Kyoto's Yasakajinja shrine to ring in the Year of the Dragon by playing "Karutahajime," the traditional Japanese New Year's card game.
The basic idea of any karuta game is to be able to quickly determine which card out of an array of cards is required and then to grab the card before it is grabbed by an opponent. There are various types of cards which can be used to play karuta. It is also possible to play this game using two standard decks of playing cards.
There are two kinds of cards used in karuta. One kind is yomifuda (読札) or "reading cards", and the other is torifuda (取り札) or "grabbing cards." As they were denoted, the words in the yomifuda are read and players will have to find its associated torifuda before anybody else does.
The two types of karuta cards that are most often seen are the "uta-garuta" and "iroha-garuta".
In "uta-garuta", players try to find the last two lines of a tanka given the first three lines. It is often possible to identify a poem by its first one or two syllables. The poems for this game are taken from the Hyakunin Isshu and are traditionally played on New Year's Day.
Anyone who can read hiragana can play "iroha-garuta" (いろはがるた). In this type, a typical torifuda features a drawing with a kana at one corner of the card. Its corresponding yomifuda features a proverb connected to the picture with the first syllable being the kana displayed on the torifuda.
Karuta is often played by children at elementary school and junior high-school level during class, as an educational exercise. Although several kinds of Karuta games are described below, in reality any kind of information that can be represented in card form can be used including shapes, colours, words in English, small pictures and the like.