Karuta - The 100 Poems Game

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

The idea of the karuta game is to quickly define which card, out of many, is the right one and then pick it up before your opponent does. Thus enabling several decks and different ways to play Karuta.

In this article we are going to talk about the classic, competitive Karuta that uses a set of uta-garuta cards that brought together 100 poems “Ogura Hyakunin Isshu” made in the early 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 poem reading Karutaplay, and the other 100 are the playing cards used in the game called Torifuda which must be shuffled and divided among the players.

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

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


An audio recording or one person is responsible for reading the poems using the other 100 cards Yomifuda that has every poem written. Before an introductory poem is read, and as soon as he starts reading the poem on the card the players desperately must touch the card corresponding to the poem being read.

If the poem that was read does not correspond to 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 succeeds must remove this card from the game, if this card is on the opponent's field you must take one of your cards and send it to their field. When all the cards in your field run out, it means victory.

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

Otetsuki (Fouls)

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

double fouls

  • If a player touches a card in the opponent's territory and the opponent touches the right card in the other game's territory, 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 so is often considered inelegant and unsportsmanlike.

There are seven poems that have single syllables (Fu, Ho, Me, Mu, Sa, Se, Su) and 86 poems with three single syllables. There are three letters 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 the kimariji. As a result of this, 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, it has that pinch of romance, and even though the sport doesn't seem like a flashy thing, 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 see and catch the correct card. A traditional Karuta deck is not expensive, and can be found for $40 on ebay.

In addition to Karuta of 100 Poems, there are countless other ways to play Karuta. Searching for Karuta in your Smartphone Store you will find applications focused on learning hiragana, Kanji and many others. Karuta has endless possibilities, you can even invent a Karuta in English, as the game is just about taking the card before your opponent.

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

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

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

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