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Karuta: Traditional Japanese Playing Cards – More Karuta Variations and Karuta in Popular Culture

In our previous post about the Japanese traditional card game karuta, we listed some of popular karuta variations. In this post, we will post more of these karuta variations and karuta in popular culture.

Karuta Variations

Local Karuta Variations

Learning the Japanese language gets more complicated once you study about regional dialects of Japan. Want to know more about the unique and fascinating regions of Japan’s islands? Regional dialect karuta (hougen karuta) can arm you with the words and phrases you need to sound native whether you’re in Hokkaido, Osaka, Kyoto, or Aomori. And regional history cards (kyodo karuta) can introduce you to the local events, specialties, and historic sites of areas as far flung as Gunma (Jomo Karuta) and Hokkaido (Hokkaido no Meisho or “Famous Places in Hokkaido”).

Hokkaido Hougen Karuta

Hokkaido Hougen Karuta (北海道方言かるた, Hokkaido Dialect Cards) is the first of a series of Talking Karuta produced by Discovery Creative in Hokkaido Japan which help children and adults alike learn different words and phrases used on the northern island of Hokkaido. Unlike most karuta where a reader need to be present for the game to be played, Hokkaido Hougen Karuta includes a CD-ROM with the reading of the cards being read by a native of the Hokkaido dialect. Hokkaido Karuta has become a popular version of karuta all over Japan because it allows the player(s) to play and learn without the presence of a reader.

Kyo-Kotoba Karuta

Kyo-Kotoba Karuta (京ことばかるた, Kyoto Word Cards) is a version of karuta using the Kyoto dialect. This karuta set was produced by Discovery Creative under the supervision of Osaka City University Professor Nakagawa Makoto. This also being part of the Talking Karuta series, the narrations were recorded by famous Japanese actress Itida Hiromi, an expert in the Kyoto dialect in Japan.

National Karuta

Karuta like Todofuken karuta (都道府県かるた) and Nipponichi karuta (日本一かるた) both fit under this category, since they represent all of Japan’s various regions in a single deck. Playing with Todofuken karuta can help you memorize the shape and characteristics of all 47 of Japan’s prefectures, while Nipponichi karuta will introduce you to a traditional folk craft from each of Japan’s prefectures via poems inscribed on the yomifuda.

Doyo Karuta

Doyo Karuta (童謡かるた, Nursery Rhyme Cards) is a version of karuta made of famous Japanese nursery rhymes sang to music to help young children learn the Japanese writing system called Hiragana. This version of karuta was created by Kumamoto Kenmin Television, a local television station located in the Kumamoto Prefecture of Japan who are also the creators of Kumamoto dialect karuta.

Kabufuda

Kabufuda (株札) are cards used for gambling games such as Oicho-Kabu. They come in decks of 40 cards with designs representing the numbers 1 through 10. There are four cards for each number and the 10 is the only face card.

Hanafuda

Hanafuda (花札, flower cards, featured in our Hanafuda posts: 1, 2) are a variation of karuta. Beginning in the early 19th century, they are still in use today with a deck of 48 cards having different pictures representing each of the 12 months.

Karuta in Popular Culture

Karuta was almost unknown outside of Japan until the release of the manga and anime series Chihayafuru. It portrays the story of a group of young people and their journey through the world of karuta.

Chihayafuru_fanart

A Chihayafuru fanart. Image from Wikipedia.

Chihayafuru (ちはやふる) is a manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Suetsugu, serialised in Be Love and published by Kodansha. It is about a school girl, Chihaya Ayase, who is inspired by a new classmate to take up Hyakunin Isshu karuta competitively. It has been adapted into an anime television series, which aired on Nippon Television and Crunchyroll between October 2011 and March 2012. A second season aired between January and June 2013.

 References:

1. Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Karuta!. Tofogu.

2. Karuta. Wikipedia.

3. Chihayafuru. Wikipedia.

4. Featured image and other images are from Wikimedia Commons.

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