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Hyakunin Isshu

Japanese traditional card game

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首?) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred Japanese waka by one hundred poets. Hyakunin isshu can be translated to “one hundred people, one poem [each]”; it can also refer to the card game of uta-garuta, which uses a deck composed of cards based on the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu.

On each card, one poem and its author

On each card, you can see one poem written and one poet beautiful illustration. It’s sure that you cannot understand anything (actually, even to Japanese people it’s difficult to completely understand the poem which is written in a poetic way in old Japanese), isn’t it interesting just seeing their clothing, hair style and the way they sit on the ground without chair?

How to play?


To start to play, we need two kinds of cards. One is this “Yomi-fuda”, meaning the card to read. On “Yomifuda”, whole poem is written.


The other one is “Tori-fuda”, meaning the card to take. On “Tori-fuda”, the last half of the poem, called “shimo no ku” is written.

Let’s play! but prepare well….!

So how to play the game? First, we will make two team and we need one person who will read the poem (reader). The rule is simple. The reader reads the poem and each member take the card which poem the reader is reading as quickly as possible. But pay attention. As I mentioned, on “yomi-fuda” we can see only “shimo no ku”, the last half of the poem. So in order to get the card as quickly as possible before others taking it, you must get which poem is being read during the first half of the poem (kami no ku) in being read. That means you must memorize whole poem of 100 poems by heart.

The “match”

At some school, students learn Hyakunin Isshu in the class and have occasion to play the game. It seems hard to memorize all the 100 poems, but children learn fast!! It’s a good occasion to practice memory and learn old Japanese culture.

On Tatami (Official style)

Officially, Hyakunin Isshu is supposed to be played in Tatami. And player must sit down in this Japanese way. (For people who are not get used to this, it might be painful though…!)

Range the cards correctly

When people play Hyakunin Isshu on Tatami, there is a correct way to range the cards such as how many lines of Tatami we should keep as between the cards.

Competitive style

We have competitive match organized by the All Japan Karuta Association. (Karuta is another name of this game.) In this match, players wear Kimono and the way players take the card is more speedy and professional!!

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