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Series STUDENT'S CORNER Ganjitsu no Asobi New Year’s Games: 元日の遊び SELENA HOY N EW Year’s Day is one of Japan’s most important holidays. It’s a time spent with family, and many people go back to their hometowns to visit parents, grandparents and cousins during the New Year’s period. It’s also an ideal time to lounge around the house eating, playing games and laughing with family. While nowadays people are most likely to watch TV and play video games over the holidays, there are a variety of games that have been traditionally played at New Year’s in Japan: Karuta Karuta is a matching game played with beautifully illustrated cards. There are many variants of the game, but the most famous is called Hyakunin Isshu, or ‘Poems from One Hundred People.’ Most of these poems were written in the Heian period, about a thousand years ago. A caller reads the first three lines of a poem from a ‘reading card,’ or yomifuda. As he or she reads, the other players race to find the last two lines among the torifuda, or ‘grabbing cards,’ laid out on the table: If I see that bridge– The caller recites in a sing-song voice. The players gathered around the table peer at the cards in concentration. 22 | highlighting japan That is spanned by flights of magpies– One player’s hand shoots out just as the caller recites the third line! Across the arc of heaven– The player slaps the card with the last two lines of the poem: Made white with a deep-laid frost, Then the night is almost past. The caller confirms this is the right card. If it is, the player gets to keep the card while the caller goes on to the next poem. When the game ends, the player with the most cards is the winner. (Poem by Ōtomo no Yakamochi)