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Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Japanese Card Game of Karuta, Aikatsu-Style

Japan has its own history of games, or variations on games. I've shown menko cards, shiritori cards, and trading card-based games here before. And I've brought you at least a couple from this next group, though I've never shown a full set.

At its most basic, karuta is a card-snatching game. A reading of some sort is made from the yomifuda (reading card), and players must try to grab the corresponding torifuda (grabbing card). The game takes its form in several varieties, and the version below is the most common one to be found on baseball cards.

I don't have a full set of baseball karuta cards, though for the right price I'd be more than glad to buy one. Instead, I have this Aikatsu-themed set I picked up for only $3 at a flea market.
 The backs of the grabbing cards are not used in the game, so the manufacturer of this set put janken (rock-paper-scissors) game images in the corner for use in other games.

The fronts contain images and a hiragana character in the upper-right corner. When one player reads from the reading card, other players try to find the right hiragana card and grab it before others do. The images on the card relate to the hiragana character in some form. For example, one card in the first row below has the hiragana character for "i" (the sound of "ee" in "bee"). The girl is pictured in a strawberry costume. Strawberry, in Japanese, is ichigo. The character for ka (second row right) has cards ("kaado" in Japanese). There are flowers (hana) on the "ha" card, and books (hon) on the "ho" card.

 There's one blank grabbing card. If you lose one card, you can replace it and even draw a new picture!

There is one reading card for each grabbing card above. And the first syllable (top right of the card) matches to the syllables on the grabbing cards. Additionally, the story on the reading cards relate to the image... though the "ha" card mentions mom (haha) not flower. The text matches the picture anyway.

Again, one blank card is provided should you lose a reading card.

Karuta can be applied to any topic, as you can see here. And a simple version of the game doesn't even need a story. You can simply use words, or a basic sentence - perfect for practicing vocabulary. At which point, the grabbing cards might just be picture or vocabulary cards, I might have to try this at work...


  1. I have a group of six or seven 5th graders this summer who are obsessed with anime. They'd probably be all over these cards.

  2. Girls or boys? I'm assuming girls given the subject matter... though there are "neutral" and "boys" versions too. (Gender roles certainly remain strong in Japan.)