Chihayahuru (ちはやふる) is a manga series illustrated by Yuki Suetsugu (末次由紀). Because it features a girl who plays Karuta, the series Chihayahuru can play an important role in introducing Karuta to people beyond Japan.
Karuta (かるた or カルタ), a traditional card game in Japan, has been played since the Genroku period (1688-1704). There are a several types of Karuta – Iroha Karuta, Uta Karuta, and Kyodo Karuta, to name a few. Each type of Karuta is based on a different theme. For example, Iroha Karuta is based on proverbs, and each card starts with a different Hiragana character. Since Iroha Karuta were created before the standard order of Hiragana was changed after WWII, these cards follow the pre-war order of hiragana. Karuta games are usually played for fun, but they are also used pedagogically to teach children Japanese letters.
Karuta is a simple and fun game and it is a good opportunity to learn about Japanese culture. For information on how to play Karuta, wikihow.com offers detailed English instructions.
To learn more about Karuta, check out the following Japanese language books in OSUL:
- Iwanami Iroha Karuta Jiten (岩波いろはカルタ辞典) by Tokita Masamizu (2004 Iwanami Shoten)- a dictionary of Iroha Karuta. It explains the metaphor of the poems and include sample images of the Karuta cards.
- Edo no Yūgi (江戸の遊戯) by Namiki Seishi (2007 Seigensha) – introduces kaiawase(貝合わせ) and sugoroku (すごろく). Kaiawase was very similar to Karuta except instead of playing cards, Kaiawase used elaborately painted sea shells. Sugoroku is a game similar to “chutes and ladders” and was first played during the Edo period. The book also explains the difference among various kinds of Karuta.