OTSU, Japan, Jan. 27, 2021 /Kyodo JBN/ --
Grand Champions of Japan’s Competitive
“Karuta” Card Game Decided in Shiga Prefecture
- Popularity Fanned by Comic Series “Chihayafuru” -
Heated battles unfolded on the “tatami” mat floor during the national championship tournaments of competitive karuta (card game) held at Omi Shrine, Shiga Prefecture, western Japan, on January 9, 2021, to determine the best national players -- the “Meijin” (Master) winner of the men’s division and the “Queen” winner of the women’s division.
The calm and quiet venue was filled with a tense atmosphere each time when the reciter read out a poem (on the “yomifuda” or reading card) from the “Hyakunin Isshu” collection (a classical anthology of literary 100 “waka” poets, one poem each). Upon hearing the first syllable of an average 17-syllable first half of a poem on one yomifuda, players reached out for the corresponding card (“torifuda,” or cards for players, each having the second half of the same poem) in the blink of an eye.
An Israeli man, who was watching the competition, said with apparent excitement, “I had the same feeling of tension as that of the anime version.”
Photo1: Players taking part in the women’s tournament at Omi Shrine (the championship tournament for the Queen title) (January 9, 2021)
Photo2: The men’s championship tournament for the Meijin (Master) title
Photo3: New Queen Yuri Yamazoe (left) and Meijin Keitaro Kumehara (right)
Photo4: Spectators listen attentively to commentaries while looking at the display screen
All matches can be seen on YouTube:
“Martial art on tatami”
In competitive karuta, the reciter reads out yomifuda cards one by one while players compete to quickly grab the corresponding torifuda. It is referred to as a martial art on tatami because it requires a good memory, concentration, instantaneous force, and physical strength.
In recent years, the popular animated series Chihayafuru has played a part in sparking a karuta boom, particularly among the youth, and the number of players from overseas has been on the rise.
Photo5: Picture of karuta cards
Omi Shrine, the “sacred place” of karuta
Omi Shrine, also known as Omi Jingu, is dedicated to Emperor Tenji, who composed the first poem of Hyakunin Isshu, and is regarded as the sacred place of karuta. In addition to the national championship tournaments, the Japanese national senior high school karuta championship is held at the Shinto shrine every year. Furthermore, heated matches took place among players from Japan and abroad when the competitive karuta world championship was held at the shrine in 2019.
Photo6: Omi Shrine (Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture)
Photo7: Omi Kangakukan (on the grounds of Omi Shrine)
Source: Shiga Prefectural Government