Wow, it’s been a while. Recently, while playing with my wife and kids a game of karuta with our hyakunin isshu cards, I learned about a simple, introductory way to enjoy the game without spending a lot of time learning the poems or mastering the rules of the competition. This simple game is called bōzu-mekuri (坊主めくり).
The rules are nicely explained here in Japanese, but goes like this:
- Shuffle all 100 of the picture cards, then make a stack face-down. This is called the yamafuda.
- Two or more people sit around the yamafuda stack and take a turn drawing the top card from the pile.
- Depending on what kind of card a person gets, one of three things will happen:
- If the card is a picture of a nobleman (tono), add it to your personal pile.
- If the card is a picture of a Buddhist monk (bōzu), you lose all your cards. Add them to a second stack next to the original yamafuda stack, but face up. If there are cards already there, just add to the pile.
- If the card is a court lady (himé) then you get all the cards from the second throw-away pile.
- Once all the cards from the face-down pile are exhausted, whoever has the most cards at the end wins the game.
If you get a stack of hyakunin isshu cards, try it out with your friends some time! I found the game very easy to learn, and fun to play with 3-4 people. More people the better.
P.S. There are variations of this game you can play too, according to the website above. You can make two face-down piles if you want, and players are welcome to draw from either one. You can also lay out the cards face-down into a circle as well. The rules for the cards themselves are the same, but there are many ways you can make your pile.