Karuta - The game of 100 poems

Today I'm going to talk about a card game called Karuta, a game that mixes poems, reading, listening, memorizing and agility. Karuta is generally taught to children in elementary school I and II during classes, as an educational activity. But it is also played among adults, where championships take place across the country.

The idea of the karuta game is to quickly define which card, among many, is the one that is the right one and then take it before your opponent. Thus allowing different decks and different ways to play Karuta.

In this article, we will talk about the classic, the competitive Karuta that uses a set of uta-garuta cards that gathered 100 poems “Ogura Hyakunin Isshu” made in the beginning of the 13th century by the poet Fujiwara no Teika.

About Karuta

To play traditional Karuta, you must have a basic knowledge of the Japanese language and be able to understand the poems. Karuta players must memorize the 100 poems in order to perform well in the Game.


The game consists of 200 cards. 100 has the reading of the poem (Yomifuda), and the other 100 are the catch cards used in the game called Torifuda which must be shuffled and divided among the players.

The reading letters of the poem Yomifuda usually has a short poem known as tanka which has 5 verses totaling 31 syllables divided into 5-7-5-7-7 verses. The catch cards have the end of the poem with the last 2 verses of 7 syllables or 14 hiragana.


Of the 100 cards Torifuda of the players, 50 are left out in the game and 25 are distributed to each of the 2 players, who must organize them on both sides into 3 rows. Before starting players have 15 minutes to memorize the position of all cards.


An audio recording or a person is responsible for reading the poems using the other 100 letters Yomifuda that has every poem written. An introductory poem is first read, and as soon as he begins to read the letter's poem players must desperately play the letter corresponding to the poem being read.

If the poem that was read does not match any of the cards in the game it is a dead card, when an existing card in the game is read, the player must quickly touch that card before the opponent, whoever should remove that card from the game, if this card is in the opponent's field you must take one of your cards and send it to his field. When all the cards in your field are gone it means victory.


The secret of the game is not just memorizing the cards, listening to the poems and being quick, even the way you shuffle your cards, or when you pick up a card on the opponent's field will have great effects in the game. It will be normal for cards to fly out of the scene, or your hand messing up the cards. The game has some other rules and faults that can be seen below:

Otetsuki (Fouls)

  • Playing the wrong card in the same territory as the right card is not considered a fault. As a result, players can "sweep" the right card and the cards next to it away from their territory;
  • Playing the wrong card in the opposite territory the card is on results in a foul. The opponent can then pass a card from his territory to the other player;
  • Touching a card when a dead card is read results in a fault;

Double fouls

  • If a player touches a card in the opponent's territory and the opponent touches the right card in the territory of the other game, a double fault has occurred. Two card penalty;
  • If a player touches BOTH territories when a dead card is read, he has just generated a double fault;

Cards can be repositioned at any time during the game. However, doing this is often considered inelegant and lacking in sportsmanship.

There are seven poems that have unique syllables (Fu, Ho, Me, Mu, Sa, Se, Su) and 86 poems with three unique syllables. There are three cards that start with “Chi”, which are: “Chihayafuru, “Chigirikina ”and“Chigiriokishi ”, then the player must react as soon as he / she hears the decisive part of the poem, which is called kimariji. As a result, quick thinking, good reaction time and good speed are required.


To understand more about Karuta, there is a great anime, with 3 seasons and good reviews that shows the story of a girl named Chihaya who is addicted to Karuta. I recommend this anime even if you don't like the game.

This is that kind of anime that already holds in the first episode, has that dash of romance, and even though the sport does not seem flashy, it manages to engage those who watch the anime.

Karuta - the game of 100 poems

Learn Japanese with Karuta

Playing Karuta will improve your Japanese, both in listening and reading, and will increase your agility and memorization. It will be a long challenge to memorize the 100 poems. Your eyes must be wide open during the game to view and pick the correct card. A traditional Karuta deck is not expensive, and can be found for $ 40 on ebay.

In addition to the 100 poem Karuta, there are countless other ways to play Karuta. Searching for Karuta in the Store of your Smartphone you will find applications focused on learning hiragana, Kanji and several others. Karuta has infinite possibilities, you can even invent a Karuta in Portuguese, since the game consists only of taking the card first than your opponent.

You also don't have to follow the traditional rules of competitive Karuta. You can play with as many cards as you want, you can shuffle however you want and play with as many people as you want. 


So I leave the incentive to play this game quite simple and at the same time promises great challenges and fun. Finally, I will leave a short video showing a Karuta match held right here in Brazil:

Enter their youtube channel so you can know details on how to play Karuta here in Brazil, there is the face page and the site with some tips and tricks of the game.