Practice #2 2014

We had our second meeting of this year on Jan 18th. As the first one was a New Year Party, where we mostly played recreational Karuta, this meeting was really the first real practice.

I heard that the participants tried a new practice method Olivia invented, but, sorry I have no idea what the method was like and/or how it worked out as I could not participate in the practice this day.

So, I just share some photos I managed to take.

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We had two visitors from Japan, who were stunned by the intense play by the Murasame-kai members.

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Even the tea break was taken in a different style this time.

We had a very special guest from Japan, a producer of green tea, who gave us a mini seminar on the Japanese green tea. The reason I could not participate in the practice was because I was too busy helping with this seminar.

Our usual tea break is very relaxing (and a bit noisy sometime), but in this type of formal setting, the members looked a bit nervous. Yet, the seminar was very educational, and the tea brewed by a tea master was delicious.
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We will go back to regular schedule and program from February.
The next practice will be on Feb 1 Sat.

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Happy New Year!

The very first meeting in the year 2014 was a fun New Year Party!

As communicated in advance, the purpose of this meeting was to “relax and enjoy Karuta games”, and not to practice seriously as we do at usual meetings. Here are special recreational Karuta cards we used. In addition to standard Hyakunin-isshu cards, we had all these fun cards with comic characters and such.

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So, we were ready to relax and have fun, however, we ended up doing once serious game with a brand new member who joined our meeting for the first time. He told us that he had been practicing by himself and had already memorized all one hundred cards, and I could sense that he really wanted try out his skills. So, Olivia, who is Murasame-kai’s second best player, played one short game with him.

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And, all of us were blown away by how good he was! Great to have such a skillful and motivated new member.

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After the welcome match, we finally started playing fun games.

This group played “Iroha-Karuta” which uses much simpler phrases than Hyakunin-Isshu and Torifuda (grabbing cards) include the first syllable and very friendly picture.

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The other group used the Karuta cards of The Rose of Versailles, which is a very popular comic in Japan.

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This is Bozu-Mekuri game, where you pull out picture cards from a stack facing down. (Bozu is the monk, mekuri means to “turn over” as in the pages of a book.) The basic rules are, when you get a man, keep the card. When you get a woman, keep the card and pull another. When you get a monk, discard your stash and start from zero. Whoever has the most cards in the end wins.

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The last game was Chirashi-dori, where all the participants played over one set of cards.
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After the Karuta games, we had a potluck party! Pizza, Yaki-soba, ice cream, and so many other yummy dishes!
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We all had lots of fun, and I hope we keep having fun even when we go back to more serious practice.
A Happy New Year, everyone!

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Practice #18 2013

Dec 22 was the last Murasame-kai practice meeting in 2013.

As the title of this article suggests, we got together and played Karuta 18 times this year.

By reading some of the old articles form a year ago, I realized how much everyone improved in one year. All the members have memorized many more cards and definitely faster and more competivie.

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As the day was so close to Xmas, we served Yule log cake and English black tea, instead of traditional Japanese sweets and tea.

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We actually had another Xmas delight, a surprise present from Santa Clause!

A third generation Japanese lady who lives in San Francisco contacted me recently and offered a set of Karuta cards which her grandmother left behind. She kindly delivered the cards to my house a few days ago while I was out at work. I came home, opened the package, and was very surprised to see the cards inside. They were not usual recreational Karuta cards that I was expecting. They were official tournament cards certified by the Karuta Association.

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It may be hard to see from this picture, but the cards are very solidly-made, and what is more unique about them is that they are slightly bent so it is easy to swipe them on a tatami mat. I heard that the bending job is done by hand even today as it requires subtle craftsmanship.

The lady who donated these cards to us didn’t know when and how her grandmother acquired these cards, but I’d imagine that she must have been a very advanced player to have these cards. I wish so much if she could play with us now. At least these valuable cards she left will stay with Murasame-kai and be actively used by its members for many years to come.

The very first practice meeting in 2014 will be a special New Year Party! I look forward to seeing you there.

I wish you all a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

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Practice #17 2013

We had two of very special guests at our Dec 7 practice meeting.

The first one was this man, who is Noriko’s husband and Olivia’s father. He usually shows up during the break just to enjoy the tea and sweets with Murasame-kai members, but had never participated in a Karuta practice before. After all these times he was around Murasame-kai, this was his very first time to play Karuta with us.

The second special guest was the charming lady who was sitting across from him. She was visiting from Japan to see his son, who is one of the Murasame-kai members.

Having these dearest guests made the practice more fun and relaxed. I think we all laughed quite a bit more than usual.

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Another special note for the day was that I really noticed that the very young members of Murasame-kai were getting quite good. Both of the two kids who participated the practice this day ended up in the same team. Someone suggested that we separate them to balance the skill level of two teams (and she meant that the team had both kids had disadvantage), but Kids team actually beat All Adults team!

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The sweets for the day was “Kuri Manju”, which is Chestnut bun, made with home made candied chestnuts. They were so delicious!

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New Year Karuta Party!

The very first Murasame-kai meeting in 2014 will be held on January 5th (Sun). I decided to make this a special New Year Karuta event for wider audience.

Musame-kai members usually practice Karuta rather seriously at a regular meeting, however, just for this special occasion, we will relax and enjoy more recreational style Karuta games. This would be a perfect opportunity for those novices who were interested in Karuta but were hesitating to join a regular practice.

New Year Karuta Party
Please stop by any time that is convenient for you. You can come just to play a Karuta game or only join the potluck party, too。

Please contact sfmurasamekai@gmail.com if you are interested in coming to this event.

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Practice #16 2013

We had a practice on Nov 17th, where 6 members participated. In the first half, we practiced Blue cards continuing from the last practice.

It was the second time to practice Blue cards for all the participants, as they all joined the last practice, too. Although Blue cards are not easy to memorize as there are many cards that start with same Kimari-ji (e.g. 6 cards that start with “Ta” syllable, also 6 with “Ko”), these members pretty much got them all down by the end of the day.

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Sweets for the day were seasonal fruits (persimmons and asian pears) and rice crackers.

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“What happened to home made Japanese sweets that you usually serve?” you may ask. Well, due to various reasons, I could not make sweets for this practice. But, don’t worry, they’ll come back. I plan to make Kuri-Manju (baked bun stuffed with chestnut) for the next practice.

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For the tag-team match, we used all 80 cards we’ve practiced so far (Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue). As there were only 4 players, each player was given 20 cards, which is a lot more than we normally practice with. To my surprise, all the cards were taken before Shimono-ku was read. I was very impressed and realized that we may be able to start playing a game based on official rules.

Team A was this powerful mother and charming son,
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and Team B was these guys who’ve come to the practice very regularly.
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It was such a close game and actually ended up as “Fatal Match” (only one card left on each side). I will skip who won as they were really even.

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The next practice is on Dec 7th Sat. Please take care of yourself and avoid catching a cold until then.

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Practice #15 2013

The practice on Nov 2 was very lively with many members participating. We ran out of tatami mats and the room got too hot with so many people in our tiny living room.

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We practiced the blue cards for the first time. Most of the members struggled as they had not memorized these cards yet. The most experience member helped them with tips to memorize some of them.

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Here’s an example of memorization tips. The Upper part of the poem below starts with “玉 (tama)” which means a ball. A ball is round, and the Hiragana character “の (no)” is in very round shape as well. So, the Lower poem below with two of “の” characters together goes with “玉” Upper poem. Interesting, isn’t it?

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The sweets for the day was Pumpkin Daifuku this day was still Halloween weekend.

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Here’s the team competition. We had to use all 100 cards as we had total of 10 players. Murasama-kai’s rule for the team competition is that each team is free to decide seating order and how to divide up the given cards among the team members. So, both were spending quite a bit of time discussing their strategies, e.g. “XXXX-san, you should take all one-unique-syllable cards because you are so fast!”, “This card is XXXX-san’s favorite. We should not place it anywhere near him.” , etc., etc.

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The strategies must have worked out. Everyone was so quick to reach out to the cards they laid out right in front of them. However, the focus was too much on their own cards they got to pick and place as they liked. I encouraged them to start reaching out to the opponent territory more aggressively, and that remains to be seen yet.

The next practice is on Nov 17th (Sun). Hope to see many of you again!

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