Wow, it’s been a while. Recently, while playing with my wife and kids a game of karuta with our hyakunin isshu set, I learned about a simple, introductory way to enjoy the game without spending a lot of time learning the poems or mastering the rules of the competition. This simple game is called bōzu-mekuri (坊主めくり).
The rules are nicely explained here in Japanese, but goes like this:
- Two or more people sit around in a circle.
- Shuffle all 100 of the picture cards, then make a stack face-down. This is called the yamafuda.
- Alternatively, you can split the stack into two stacks, three stacks, or even a ring of cards. My family plays with two stacks as shown above.
- Another possible house-rule is to deal out all the cards to players, so they each have their own pile.
- No matter how you deal the cards, they need to be face down.
- Players take turns drawing one card from a yamafuda stack. It can be drawn from any stack.
- Depending on what kind of card a person gets, one of three things will happen:
- If the card is a picture of a nobleman (tono), simply add it to your personal pile.
- If the card is a picture of a Buddhist monk (bōzu), you lose all your cards. Put your cards into a pile somewhere in the middle, near the original yamafuda stack, but face up. If there are cards already there, just add to the pile.
- If the card is a court lady (himé) then you get all the cards from the face-up pile.
- Once done, pass the turn to the next player.
- When all the yamafuda cards are exhausted, whoever has the most cards at the end wins the game.
If you get a set of hyakunin isshu karuta cards, try it out with your friends some time! I found the game very easy to learn, and fun to play with 3-4 people. More people the better.
P.S. There are lots of house-rules possible, so feel free to choose rules that you and the other players enjoy.
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