About Karuta

What is Karuta?

  • Karuta is a traditional Japanese card game around a theme using like-a haiku clue cards and the answer (eg. a picture) on separate cards.
  • Karuta has been created on various themes such as proberbs, local community, history, and environment so that people can expand knowledge of the themes while having fun playing .
  • Karuta is an active game in Japan. New themed Karuta cards show up every year and Karuta game competitions have been held at school, in communities nationwide in Japan.
  • There are two types such as “uta-Karuta ” and “iroha-Karuta

About uta-Karuta

  • “uta-Karuta ” is typically played with clue(5 line poem) cards and the matched cards of the last 2 lines of the poem. “Hyakunin Isshu Karuta is a well-known uta-Karuta using 100 clue cards with 100 classical poems by 100 poets.
  • Hyakunin Isshu Karuta is played by children at elementary/junior high school level as part of lliteracy curriculum.
  • The competition using Hyakunin Isshu Karuta has been held nationwide and national championship tournament is held every January.


  • Iroha is a kind of Japnaese alphabetical 46 letters.
  • iroha-Karuta is played with 46 clue cards and the matched 46 answer(picture) cards.
  • The first letter of each clue is typically printed on the corner of the answer card.
  • iroha-Karuta can be made around any theme so there are hundres different themed iroha-Karuta in Japan. ex. history, language, geogarphy, cartoons, food, environment
  • The famous iroha-Karuta is of a theme of proverbs.played with for 46 clue and 46 answer cards.

Kyodo Karuta (an iroha-Karuta)

  • Another popular iroha-Karuta is Kyodo Karuta (hometown Karuta) depicting scenes on local
    landmarks, food,festivals, natural environment.
  • The local groups often create Kyodo karuta with the aim of educating children and reinforcing,
    strengthening community spirit through people coming together to take part in Karuta tournaments.
  • There is over 1000 Kyodo Karuta representing various areas of nationwide Japan
  • The most famous Kyodo Karuta is Jomo Karuta in Gunma, north to Tokyo. They have held Karuta
  • They have held Karuta tournament on prefectural level since 1947.

Karuta in English

  • We, FROM JAPAN Institute, developed over 20 English version of Karuta sets which are based on “iroha-Karuta ” style which means alphabet letters in English.
  • It is played with A-Z, 26 clue cards and 26 matched answer(picture) cards.
  • The first letter of each clue is printed on the corner of the answer card.

How to play Karuta

  • Karuta can be played by 2-6 people with a card reader/referee.
  • Spread the answer cards face up on the table/floor mat.
  • Sit around the answer cards.
  • A clues is read out and look for the matched answer card.
  • Touch the correct answer card before anyone else can.
  • The first player to touch the correct card wins the card.
  • Continue the game until the last two cards are left.
  • This is the last turn. Whoever wins takes both cards.
  • The winner is the player with the most cards.