On Karuta

uta-karuta-example_from_ebay_listing

There was a question on the SCA FB page regarding kyoji karuta (competitive matching-type card play). Since this was an area that I’d looked into a while back, here was my answer. Short form: karuta as an item appeared in Japan in the 16th century, but matching-type karuta games are an Edo-period development and do not fall within the pre-1600 guidelines set by the SCA

I did some research into this area a while back. The kai-awase (matching shells) is very much within the timeframe that the SCA covers. While karuta (which is a word based upon Portuguese for carta “card”) definitely came in during the 16th century, they were mostly used for European-style card playing and gambling–in fact, there seems to have been a book published in 1597 with rules for various gambling-type games. Karuta did start to be domestically made by the end of the 16th century but followed the design of European decks. The various matching games and uta-karuta developed in the Edo period, while kyogi karuta came about in the 19th century. So please keep in mind that, while amusing, kyoji karuta is not period. Here’s a good page (in Japanese) that explains the history of karuta very well.

Edo Karuta page: very good outline of the history of karuta. This is where I found the reference to the book written in 1597 called 博奕かるた諸勝負令停止, which from the kanji seems to be rules about gambling with karuta. Page is in Japanese.

Miike Karuta Museum’s page about karuta history. The museum is in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, an area where a lot of the domestic Japanese karuta cards were made. It houses the most complete historical collection of Japanese karuta.

Wikipedia can be an iffy source, but in this case, the entry about karuta is thorough and has a lot of cites to follow.

(Image saved from an Ebay listing of uta-karuta cards. Yes, I have a set.)

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