By Bryson Torgovitsky
This past Saturday, Ms. Matsumi Stone visited our class with two members of her Karuta-playing group, the D.C. Inishie Karuta Club. I had previously attended a Karuta competition that was sponsored by Ms. Stone, but I could not participate because I did not know any hiragana at that point (for more on the Karuta competition, please view my previous blog post “Priest”). However, I have since learned hiragana over the past few weeks along with my classmates, so now it was time to put those skills to the test.
Karuta is, at its core, a test of simultaneous reading and listening comprehension. A speaker reads one of the hundred set poems and it is the job of the two players (or teams, as was the case on Saturday) to identify and slap the card which has the hiragana of the poem’s second half. Since there are one-hundred poems, Ms. Stone demonstrated a few mnemonics to us so that the game would be easier. Personally, I was confused and stuck to listening to the words and connecting them to the cards. In the end, my team won the game (and a box of Matcha KitKats, which we shared with everyone at our table). After we had played Karuta, I got to revisit Pick-Up Priest! Unfortunately, the Grand Priest Dakharai was not in my group this time, but I got more than enough priests to make up for his absence. I still won a round though, and Ms. Stone gifted me with a beautiful fan with a picture of a dragon on it!
Ms. Stone also described to us how European card games, collectively named as “trump,” are popular in Japan. While I do enjoy a game of War or Mao, I would much rather play Karuta or Pick-Up Priest!