My SECOND Karuta Set and More!

While here in Japan for a couple weeks, I picked up my first karuta set of the Hyakunin Isshu at the local bookstore when I realized that getting to the more famous store was harder than I expected, and I just won’t be here long enough for local delivery.

However, my interest in the Hyakunin Isshu was not sated with a single set, and so, when the family I went to a local Kinokuniya bookstore (we have them in the US too), I found another set that I liked:

This set, by Silverback, linked here, is another set of karuta cards, but this one includes a CD of someone reciting the poems (読み手, yomité) just like in a karuta game. As you can see from the linked product description, this set has the cards color-coded. The illustrated cards (yomifuda) have a beige background, while the verses cards (torifuda) are blank white for easy searching.

When I got back home, I imported the CD into my iTunes playlist, so I can shuffle the album. That allows me to practice the karuta game since the next card read out loud will be random.

I can’t decide with of the two sets I like better. The artistic detail on the Kyoto set (the first purchase) is really quite amazing, while the character illustration on the Silverback set is more what I am familiar with. The CD the Silverback set is quite handy (and sounds very nice), while the box and presentation on the Kyoto set is more sturdy.

I suspect I will probably continue collecting sets over time. Each one is a work of art by itself. I also learned alot how and where to purchase karuta sets and will be updating my blog post about it as a result.

Separately, while at Kinokuniya though, my wife noticed this fascinating book:

This is a comprehensive book (大辞典, daijiten) all about the Hyakunin Isshu. I like this book because it’s geared for younger audiences, so it’s easier to read, but it’s very comprehensive in detail about each poem, old vocabulary, famous places mentioned in the anthology and so on. I will likely be drawing on this book in the future.

One other interesting note about the book is that it does not present the poems in the usual numerical order, instead it sorts by topic (love, spring, autumn, etc) which is (coincidentially?) closer to how Waka poems were organized in official Imperial anthologies.

Anyhow, it’s been a very lucrative haul, and gives me plenty to admire and practice with. I have been busy memorizing poems of the Hyakunin Isshu over the past few weeks and will write more about how to accomplish that.

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