By Bryson Torgovitsky
Just after New Year’s Day, I attended a Karuta Competition hosted in Bethesda, Maryland by the DC Inishie Karuta Club. I had never heard of Karuta competition but I recognized it from anime after I saw the first match. Unfortunately, I could not play since Karuta involves being able to understand spoken and written Hiragana. As of now, I have only partial comprehension of written Hiragana and I have not learned enough to understand spoken Japanese (yet!). Instead, I played a different Japanese card game with my classmates Dakharai and Daniel, and other people who were at the tournament: Pick-Up Priest.
Pick-Up Priest does not involve language comprehension, but it does involve interesting cultural references. The cards are a regular man, a demon, priests and a high priest, and nobleman and the emperor. The goal of the game is to collect as many cards as possible, but the cards are all selected at random from the stack, which creates the game’s difficulty! Each card has a unique function. The priests force you to put all of your cards in the central pot while the high priest makes you and the two people adjacent to you put all of your cards in the pot. Whoever draws a card depicting a woman can take those cards from the pot! The emperor takes the cards of the two players who are next to you and you add them to your pile, and the nobleman can take from the person on your left or right. The demon allows you to take from the pot and from your two adjacent opponents, so everyone wants that card!
I won twice when we played, but Daniel won at least four times! He kept using the nobleman cards to steal mine, so I could have won if I sat further away from him. Dakharai, on the other hand, kept losing all of his cards to the priests so he only won the last match. Daniel and I like to tease him about his bad luck; now we call him “Priest!”