Kyōgi karuta (競技かるた, ‘Competitive Karuta’) is a full-fledged Hyakunin Isshu Karuta competition held under the rules set by the All Japan Karuta Association.
Playing at a competitive level requires a high level of various skills: dexterity, agility, and memory. Even a millisecond could be the difference between taking a card and losing it, which is why it is considered as a kind of sport in Japan.
The game is similar to the “Genpei War” method of playing Hyakunin Isshu, except:
The game is a 1-versus-1 battle, facilitated by the reader and the judge.
The stack of 100 Yomifuda are held by the reader.
The players sit facing each other, with the stack of 100 Torifuda placed face-down between them.
As courtesy, players bow to each other, saying “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu”.
The Torifuda are then wash-shuffled on the floor, keeping all cards face-down.
After the Torifuda are shuffled well, each player takes 25 Torifuda.
The remaining 50 Torifuda, called Karafuda (‘empty cards’) are set aside and not used in the game.
Each player then arranges their Torifuda on the floor face-up. This would become their “Territory”.
There are rules for arranging the Territory:
Considering the rules above, a player may arrange their Torifuda in any order they want. The goal is to arrange them in a manner that they could easily remember the location of each card in their territory.
After the Torifuda are arranged satisfactorily, the reader gives a 15-minute period for the players to memorize the placement of their Torifuda and their opponent’s Torifuda.
During the final 2 minutes, each player may **practice their striking motion **toward the Torifuda, but cannot touch the Torifuda yet.
When the 15-minute period ends, the players again bow to each other, saying “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu”, and then they bow toward the reciter and the judge. Then the game begins.
The reader begins with an introductory poem (序歌, joka), which is not among the 100 poems in Hyakunin Isshu:
Sakuya kono hana
Ima o haru-be to
Sakuya kono hana
|In Naniwa bay,
Flowers are blooming
After laying dormant in winter.
Now that spring has come,
Flowers are blooming!
The introductory poem allows players to familiarize themselves with the reader’s voice and reading rhythm.
The reader then repeats the latter half of the poem (Ima o harube to…). At this time, the players should be ready to strike, as the reader prepares to read the first Yomifuda in the stack.
The reader then draws a Yomifuda from the stack and reads the first half of the poem.
As the reader reads the poem on the Yomifuda, each player must search on the floor the corresponding Torifuda in which the latter half of the poem is written, as quickly as possible.
The player must grab it with their dominant hand before the other player does.
This is because there is a rule that a player may only use one hand to grab the Torifuda throughout the entire game, so it is advised that the dominant hand be used to do so.
There are two ways of grabbing the Torifuda:
A player may grab a card from either of the two territories it appears in.
The first player to grab the correct Torifuda takes it into a face-down stack behind them. In addition:
Due to the nature of the game, it is inevitable that there will be cases where some of the Torifuda will be thrown away from their original position.
At this point, the players must put the scattered Torifuda back into their original positions, while raising one of their arms up to signal the reader to wait until they finish putting back the cards.
The order of the Torifuda in a player’s territory may also be rearranged at any time during the game, but the player must inform the opponent beforehand. However, excessive rearrangement is considered poor sportsmanship.
In any case, the reader then proceeds to read the second half of the poem. At this time, the players should be ready to strike again.
The reader then draws another Yomifuda, then after pausing for a second, reads the first half of the poem.
Faults are illegal moves in which a player is penalized for.
If a player commits a fault, the opponent gives one Torifuda from their territory to the player, who then places it into their own territory.
If both players commit a fault at the same time, they cancel each other out.
The most common faults in the game include the following:
Note that touching the wrong Torifuda in the territory where the correct Torifuda is located is not considered a Fault. This is the reason why swiping away the correct Torifuda along with other cards nearby is possible.
Other less common faults include:
The game continues until one player runs out of Torifuda in their territory.
The player whose territory is cleared of Torifuda is declared the winner of the game.
To conclude the game, the players bow to each other, saying “Arigatou gozaimashita”, and then they bow toward the reader and the judge.