Playing Karuta in Japan

Do you love playing cards with your friends or family members? In Japan, they love to play Karuta with their friends. “Karuta” is from Portuguese “Carta”, which means “Card”. Let’s know more about what kind of game is it, and how to play it then!


Aurelio Asiain on Flickr

These playing cards were introduced to Japan by the Portuguese during the 16th century. They are divided into two groups, which are from Portuguese cards and which are from Eawase.  Eawase Karuta is a game in which the winner is someone who is able to determine and grab out one suitable card before the opponent grabs it. Due to that basic rule, here is the “Uta-garuta” that Japanese people love to play.



er Guiri on Flickr

The standard way to play this game requires a reader and two or more players. At first, there are two types of cards. They are “Yomifuda”(読み札), and “Torifuda”(取り札). The word “Fuda” means cards in Japanese. While the word “Yomi” means read, and the word “Tori” means grab in Japanese. So, there are “Reading cards” and “Grabbing cards”. There is a relation between the reading cards and grabbing cards. So, I will explain how to play it then!


Koichiro Ohba on Flickr

At first, spread all the grabbing cards face up on a flat surface between the players. After you spread them, the reader should draw one reading card from the deck randomly, and read it aloud. The players should determine which grabbing card corresponds to that reading card and grab as fast as they can. Do it until no grabbing cards are left, and the one who has the most cards is the winner of the game.


Stuart Rankin on Flickr

Unfortunately, to be able to play this “Uta Garuta”, you must be able to read Hiragana! However learning Hiragana is not as difficult as you think!


There are so many varieties of Karuta played in Japan! So, here are the most popular ones!


Gilgongo on Flickr


At first, there is “Obake Karuta”, “Obake” means monsters in Japanese. All of the grabbing cards are the monsters’ illustration with the initial syllable in the corner. The reader will read the characteristic of the monster and the players should search for that monster!


Love to know more about Japan? You can learn a lot about the regional dialect of every prefecture in Japan by playing Regional Karuta. Not only the dialect, but you can also learn more about the local events, specialties, and historic sites of every prefecture in Japan too.


If you want to memorize the shape and characteristics of all 47 prefectures in Japan, you can play National Karuta.



Laura Tomàs Avellana on Flickr

Playing Karuta is so fun and interesting! If you play it, you will know how fun it is. It will make your heart beat faster as you struggle to find the card which is suitable with the reading card. As a reader, you can learn more about Japan, such as its prefectures, specialties, events, etc. So, have fun with this Karuta game in Japan with your friends!

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