Chihayafuru: A Story of Karuta

I have been hooked by Chihayafuru Manga lately. It tells a story of a Chihaya Arase who loves Karuta very much and dedicated herself for winning a National Team Tournament and become a Queen (The best woman karuta player in the world).

I can assure the story line is amazing, the characters are well developed, and more than that, there are so many lesson learned from this manga.

Have you know about Karuta? Karuta is a sport that involve 100 cards to read and 100 cards to take. At least it needs 2 players and 1 reader to be played. The players will shuffle 100 cards and each of them get 25 cards. They arrange their cards on their territory/side. The cards arrangement is depended on each player. Player’s side consists of 3 layers of cards. After that, they get 15 minutes to remember the cards position. After time is up, the reader will start reading the cards. The player have to take the cards faster than its opponent. If the player takes card from opponent’s side, he can send his card to the opponent’s side. The player who run out the cards fastest is the winner.

What is hard in each Karuta cards, is writen a poem. So, the player have to memorize 100 of Japan poems. Which is not easy even for a Japan native. Then, we must memorize the 50 cards position that must be need a lot of concentration. Not just that, there are various kind of poems that some of them has similarity in the first, second, third, or even the fourth syllables. So, it is truly nerve-racking that we have to stay focus hearing the poem reader, ready to swap the card, and remember the cards position.

The cards is shuffled

Player makes her cards arrangement

Memorization time between players

The reader starts

The player snap the card

Okay, enough with rules explanation, let’s back to Chihayafuru Manga. Chihaya knew Karuta for the first time from her childhood friend, Arata Wataya. Later on, Chihaya made a Karuta team with Arata and Taichi Mashima, which also her childhood friend. As the story developed, their relationship becomes a love triangle – the other awaited story besides the Karuta.

Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata

Chihaya continued playing Karuta until high school. She met Taichi, together they found other members and made a Karuta Club. It was found out that Taichi went to the same school with Chihaya so he can be together with her. Unfortunately, Chihaya was so dense that she never realize Taichi’s feeling. Instead, she just focussed on Karuta and think that she likes Arata. While Arata was in other city.

Karuta Club

Until chapter 139, there were so many things happened. Chihaya’s Karuta Club succeed in winning a Karuta National Team Tournament. In individual tournament, Chihaya, Arata, and Taichi succeed become an A class, the highest class for Karuta. But, they are still stuggle to become a representative to challenge the Master and Queen predecessor which is Suo Hisashi and Shinobu Wakamiya. Suo and Shinobu have a very unique skill and unbeatable talent. For Suo, he has guess the next syllable, and so can take the card before the opponent. He said, “I have 28 cards with one syllable”. For Shinobu, she has a high bond with each cards. Just like she becomes friends with 100 cards. Because of that, she has a high accuracy in getting the card.

chihayafuru master suo and queen shinobu
The Master and The Queen (They become one not only because talent but also hard work, practice, and dedication. Though in their own way)

In love triangle development, Chihaya realized that she fall in love with Arata. Arata also confessed his feeling but not asked her out. As for Taichi, finally he confessed his feeling to Chihaya. It is broken my heart that Chihaya said sorry for the confession. Taichi became very empty that he can think clearly and can not play Karuta. Later on, Taichi retreated from Karuta Club. Chihaya felt really sad that she ran chasing Taichi to not retreat. Then Taichi answered “I can no longer play Karuta. All 100 cards become black to me”. In her frustation, she retraced her journey with Taichi. She realized she was very bad to Taichi all this time. Then, she starts feeling not sure with his feeling to Arata since she can be so care with her relationship with Taichi right now.

I learned a lot from Chihayafuru Manga, it told many values in life. As I explained before, Suo and Shinobu have an unbeatable talent for Karuta. While there are many player whose don’t have a talent like them. The player might be never be a match wih Suo and Shinobu no matter how much they train, how many time they dedicate, and how many years the spend. Many players forfeit playing because they think, for what purpose the dedicated their life to do something that they won’t be the best. That mindset, I often think like that and I do forfeit many things without trying the best.
Then, I was reminded by Taichi, and other players, they don’t have talent and failed a lot, yet they stand up again and trying and trying. Although Chihaya and Arata have talent, they talent are not enough to beat Shinobu and Suo, so they keep practice again and again, always put their best.

chihayafuru taichi and arata

I want to highlight Taichi. He is not like Chihaya and Arata, he don’t have talent at all. More than that, he has no luck. He plays ordinarily. He stayed in Class B for one year that many people look down on him. Although, he practiced harder than Chihaya and Arata, he never beat them. Desperation, give up, not confident, he felt that a lot. Still, he stand up again and again. He said that, “I don’t have any talent for karuta either. It’s tough, but I still play! I keep playing because it is so much fun when we win!”. He also said, “Than a talent player, I prefer someone who are dedicated to himself in Tatami”. Our hardwork decides how meaningful our life is.

Last, Chihayafuru is high recommended. Although the pace is a little bit slow, it offers a smooth and natural storyline. We can learn of of the oldest culture and sport of Japan. We can also watch the love triangle development that still unpredictable. Just read the manga and watch the anime! I’m sure you will be hooked up.


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