Hasegawa Eiga and "Japanese Beauty"


(Karuta) spotlighting in domestic and overseas places.

Karuta, traditional Japanese game, has gained popularity both in Japan and overseas in recent years due to popularity of competitive karuta-themed comics. In this time, we will focus on karuta, which has developed independently in Japan and is now spreading all over the world.

Fusion of Japanese and Portuguese culture

Karuta is said to have been introduced to Japan around the 16th century by Portuguese trading ships. “Karuta” means “card” or “letter” in Portuguese. This “Nanban Karuta” was like playing cards with illustrations such as dragons and swords.

Originally, in Japan, game called “shell cover” was played among tnobility from the Heian period. This is a pair of shells, in which pictures and waka poems are written separately on the inside of each shell, and they are put together like a playing card’s nervous breakdown. It is believed that this game and Nanban karuta fused together to create the first karuta in Japan, Tensho Karuta, which formed current form of karuta.

As Tensho Karuta became widely popular, it also came to be used for gambling, and in the 18th century, game was banned by the Edo Shogunate. Most of them were burned or discarded, so there is only one existing Tensho karuta, which is stored in Tekisui Museum in Ashiya City.


Types of Karuta

After Nanban karuta was introduced, karuta developed independently in Japan. Here are some representative examples.

1. Uta Karuta
Karuta is mainly based on waka poems. Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, Tale of Ise, and the Tale of Genji are famious. In addition, there is “Iroha Karuta,” which uses proverbs starting with initials of the 48 letters of the alphabet.

2. E Karuta
Picture matching karuta, which combines two cards to make one pattern. In latter half of the Edo period, things that conveyed animals and plants, history, geography, etc. were born, and there was also an aspect as a means of widely disseminating knowledge. It is easy to understand because it is simple to match with the pattern, and even young children can enjoy it.3. Hanafuda
Surprisingly, Hanafuda is also a kind of karuta and is also called “Hana Karuta”. In this game, you compete for points by matching patterns of flowers, birds, and moons, and tactics, strategies, luck, etc. are tested.
Words “shikato”, which means to ignore, “買って出る”, and “pikaichi” are derived from hanafuda.


Boom in overseas countries due to influence of Manga

Karuta is traditional Japanese game, but in recent years, due to influence of the manga “Chihayafuru”, competitive karuta has become popular among the younger generation.Also, since game is popular overseas, karuta has become boom even among people who do not understand Japanese, such as in United States, China, and Europe. Omi Jingu Shrine in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, which has become sacred place for manga, has become one of the triggers for interest in Japanese culture, such as the world tournament being held.