Bringing Ogura Hyakunin-isshu Kyogi Karuta from Otsu, the Holy Land of Karuta, to the World

Otsu City in Japan considers karuta to be an important attraction for increasing tourism, and held a ‘Kyogi Karuta Trial Lesson’ for international students on Sunday, February 16th at Omi-jingū Shrine’s Omi Kangakukan.

Otsu has hosted the “Competitive Karuta World Tournament” twice for the past two years and believes that an increase in international karuta players will lead to an increase in international tourism in the area. They hope that the international students that joined the “Competitive Karuta World Tournament” will be able to spread interest in karuta within their countries once they return home.

The same karuta trial lesson is scheduled to be held on Monday (national holiday) February 24th at Omi-jingū Shrine’s Omi Kangakukan.

Kyogi Karuta is known as a competitive sport that takes place on tatami mats, where cards are fought for and taken within 1/100th of a second, requiring memorization and concentration skills as well as good reaction speed and stamina.

In recent years, due to the influence of manga and the Japanese film Chihayafuru, there has been a considerably large increase in the number of players from foreign countries that have helped Kyogi Karuta grow in popularity. As a result, international students from Brazil, China, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Taiwan and other countries have applied to participate.

Otsu, the Karuta Mecca

Blessed with magnificent nature and history, such as Japan’s largest lake “Lake Biwa” and the world cultural heritage “Hieizan Enryakuji Temple”, Otsu is also home to Omi-jingū Shrine where the author of the first poem in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu – Emperor Tenji – is enshrined. Therefore, Otsu is known as the Karuta Mecca. The championship matches for Kyogi Karuta are famously depicted in the manga and animated film Chihayafuru, and the National High School Ogura Hyakunin Isshu Tournaments, which are held here each year.

The “Otsu Hikarukun Cup” has been held in Otsu, the Karuta Mecca since 2018 in order to spread interest in Karuta all over the world and encourage interaction with people who love karuta.

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