Saturday, January 7, 2012

The annual karuta competition

The annual karuta competition to decide the male and female champions in Japan was held at Omi Jingu Shrine(近江神宮) in Shiga Prefecture on January 7th. Each of last year's male and female champions fought for title against a winner of the preliminaries participated in the tournament. The event was broadcast live on the Net and will be broadcast on a satelite TV program.

The last year's male champion won five-set match and had achieved 14 consecutive victories. The last year's female champion won two straight sets and achieved 8 consecutive victories.

Karuta is a Japanese card game. This competition uses one hundred waka poem cards based on Ogura Hyakunin-isshu which is a famous poetry anthology selected by Fujiwarano Teika in the Heian period and includes one hundred waka poems by one hundred poets. A waka poem consisits of 31 syllables and is divided into the upper poem(the first three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables) and the lower poem(the remaining two lines of 7 and 7 syllables.)

Each of two opponents lines up 25 cards in three rows on own side. As soon as the reader calls out a poem, players must quickly search for the card with the same poem on the tatami mat and try to pick it up. A player who eliminated all 25 cards from the own side first is the winner.
If a player gets a card on opponent side or his opponent touch a wrong card, the player sends a card on own side to opponent side.

However, only the lower poem is written on the card on the mat.  Although the reader calls out one hundred poems, only 50 cards are on the mat. So players are prone to touch a wrong card.

The competition is called Kyogi Karuta and played by the rule established by All-Japan Karuta Association.
Kyogi Karuta is a kind of sports. Karuta players need to have cat-like-reflex. Their hand movements are too fast for the naked eye to see. We need to watch them again in slow motion.

Omi Jingu Shrinen started the competition in 1955 because the shrine is dedicated to Emperor Tenji (天智天皇,626-671) and Ogura Hyakunin-isshu begins with a poem by him.

card for taking
(Emperor Tenji's poem)

card for reading
(Emperor Tenji's poem)


  1. Scuse me, question, WHERE do they broadcast tournaments on the web *o* if you could, maybe link me the adressess? (My karuta-weeabu senses are tingling)

    1. The video of this year's competition is available to only premium members(dues-paying member) at (Japanese version only).
      Its live stream was free to everyone. Now it is necessary to have a login account as a premium member and press Time Shift button(yellow button) to use this video site.

      Here is a video of a kaura player won 14 consecutive victories in the competition.

  2. Is all karuta's tournaments free?

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog!
      Admission is free for viewers in most tournaments including this one. Participators need to pay a registration fee. In this tournament, advance application by double postcard is required for viewers. You could try going standby.

      Viewers are warned not to make a single sound during a match.

      All Japan Karuta Association (sorry, Japanese version only):

      karuta festival and tournament in omijingu :

  3. Hi !
    When is the demi final and the final normally ?

  4. Thank you for your question.

    October 16, 2016
    East Japan candidates' tournament
    West Japan candidates' tournament

    November 20, 2016
    Candidates' tournament final
    (match between the winners of east and west Japan candidates' tournaments)

    January 7, 2017
    final (last year's champion vs. tournament winner)
    advanced application is required. The final will probably be broadcast live on the Internet.

    For more information, see Omi Jingu's website :