Karuta: Japanese card game


Mina San Konnichiwa !! I am Shiruku and I am glad to be joining the « Wind In a Box »’s family, next to KazeYoja and N. I have recently become a member in a Japanese culture club, so I thought that our dear readers could go on a journey to discover this amazing culture through the many activities of this club.  I hope you will learn more about Japan and enjoy reading my articles. Ganbarimasu ^_^

This article will be about Karuta, a card game that is often played in New Year’s Day in Japan. The game’s objective is to be able to recognize and take the correct card out of an array of cards before your opponent does. In order to play it, you need two decks of cards; the first one represents the reading cards (Yomifuda) while the other consists of the grabbing cards (Torifuda). There are many kinds of Karuta, and the decks’ content varies from one type to another, but the most popular one is the “Uta-Garuta” where the Yomifudas are the first part of 100 known Japanese poems ( or the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu ) and the Torifudas are their second half.

Therefore, you can notice that you not only have to be quick but also learn by heart those 100 poems to win the game or at least be able to play it (That is very hard for someone with a week memory like mine). Moreover, the Uta-Garuta is considered as a competitive sport and has its own tournaments in which contestants have to play several games in just one day, so it demands a lot of concentration, speed, and of course, a great memory. If you want to learn more about competitive Karuta (and Japanese poetry), I suggest you watch “Chihaya Furu”, an anime that tells the story of three friends who want to become the best Karuta players in the world and thus need lots of training, physical and mental effort to pursue their dreams. Furthermore, if you are trying to learn the hiragana, watching this anime can be a good exercise (sometimes I stopped the anime and tried to read some cards, and it really helped :p ).


The Karuta we played was an easier version that is designed to help beginners who want to learn hiragana memorize the Kana or characters. We played a type of Karuta that is similar to the “Iroha-Karuta” but isn’t based on proverbs. Actually, the Yomifuda had a drawing and two hiragana characters that referred to the first syllables of the two words in the matching Torifuda. We played as two teams against each other and it was so much fun. At the first time, we all had trouble finding the correct cards but when it came to the third time, we have learnt by heart the cards so as soon as we heard the words we were jumping to the cards on the other side of the table (See? I told you it really is a sport since we often stretched our muscles!) . I laughed so hard when watching those funny reflexes, and I had a wonderful time playing the Karuta. Here are some pictures that were taken while we were playing:



  Go to our Facebook page for more pictures 😉

If you are learning Japanese and want to play the Karuta, you can download one the free printable versions available on the internet (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the one we played). Then, you only need to cut the cards and let the fun begin!

Let us know if you enjoyed the game!

—- Shiruku —-


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