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Japanese Poem Card Game Charms Chinese Students
    2008-07-07 19:59:52     Xinhua
Wang Yinlu, a 21-year-old Chinese college student, didn't expect to win when she attended a traditional Japanese poem game in Beijing on Saturday.

"I only practiced a couple of times with my classmates before the game, and I really feel lucky that my team won first place," said Wang, a third-year student of Foreign Trade and Japanese at the Beijing University of Technology.

"I found the game interesting, and I was glad to make friends with Japanese students and their parents."

Wang and 20-odd other Chinese college and middle school students and a dozen Japanese primary school students attended the Karuta game, which was organized by the Japanese A-level player, Mutsumi Yoshida Stone.

"It was the first time a Karuta game was held in China," said Stone. The Beijing Office of the Japan Foundation hosted the game.

Wang and her classmates heard Stone's lecture on Karuta at their university on July 2 and tried to recite some of the poems written on the cards, which actually helped her team win.

Stone said the type of game played on Saturday is called Ogura Hyakunin-Isshu Karuta, which is based on 100 famous Japanese short poems, or tanka.

Hyakunin-Isshu means "one poem each from 100 authors". The poems, which were composed from the 7th to 13th centuries, were chosen by the renowned Japanese poet Fujiwara no Teika in 1235. Ogura is an area in Kyoto, where Teika's mountain villa was located.

"I hope the game will enable more Chinese to know about Japanese poems and help promote cultural exchanges between Japanese and Chinese people," said Stone.

The Karuta game consists of two sets of 100 cards. One is the "reading cards" on which a complete poem is written, with the name and image of the poet. The other set, the "playing cards", has only the second half of a poem.

In the game, a speaker randomly selects and reads the reading cards while competitors try to beat their opponents at finding the correct matching cards. The game can be played by several people or as a one-on-one match.

"I felt quite nervous when the game started, but then gradually I began to enjoy it," said Niu Jiangwei, a student of Japanese language with the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

"I would like to attend more such activities. I wish I could get to know more Japanese people and know more about their culture," Niu said.

"It is also a good opportunity to observe Japanese manners. The game is really a friendly contest," said Wang.

The Chinese students were from Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing University of Science and Technology, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications and Yuetan Middle School.

Stone said there are about 1 million people in Japan who play Karuta. More than 60 tournaments of Kyogi Karuta, the one-on-one game, are held in Japan each year. She introduced Karuta to the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan and Thailand when she lived in those countries. She had been planning to introduce it to China since she came to live in Beijing with her family last October.

"I was thrilled to see the students from two countries play together and be so friendly to each other," said Stone. "I think I will organize more games in Beijing."


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