Tag Archives: chihayafuru

Karuta Forever: At a Real Life Karuta Demonstration


I was reading about a reporter’s visit to Chernobyl a few weeks ago. It’s fascinating for many reasons, especially given the fact that one probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience it. I felt the same way about karuta after having seen Chihayafuru. It’s a sport played in the land of the Rising Sun that I figured I would never have the pleasure of playing or spectating.

That is, until this past week.

Braving the snow and freezing temperatures, a few dozen people gathered at the JICC on Wednesday for a karuta demonstration. I sat in the front row and toyed with my shiny new karuta cards when it caught Ms. Stone’s attention. She became more intrigued at my getup as I was wearing a medical mask. I sighed heavily inside, like all the other times where no one recognized my Arata cosplay at conventions.

Her voice was fading in and out, but a sudden tilt of her head coupled with a twinkle in her eye ignited a glimmer of hope in me. She continued to nod her head and at that moment, my heart probably skipped a beat. She got it!

Ms. Stone heads the DC Karuta Club. Yes, there is such a thing. She began with a lecture about the origins of karuta. It was highly informative but I was getting impatient staring at the tatami mats behind her Powerpoint presentation.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. Entering on stage was Kyoko-san and Nanami, both attired in hakamas. It’s as if Chihayafuru magically materialized before me! I had to pull my mask down to intake more oxygen.

What proceeded next is best told in motion pictures. (Kyoko-san is on the left.)

Sugoi ne?! The only complaint I have feels unfair. Ms. Stone aims to educate the audience on karuta so her interruptions are only natural. It did interfere with my enjoyment of the match given that I am familiar with the sport.

After the lovely and amazing demonstration where I witnessed karuta in person (yeah, I am still excited), Ms. Stone insisted on dividing the audience into two groups, where those who could read Hiragana would play kyogi karuta, and those who couldn’t moved outside for Obosan Mekuri.

prizeThe latter is a karuta variation that requires pure luck. Fortunately for me, luck is just one of my many skills. Round one included three groups where the winner advanced into the championship. Needlessly to say, I trumped two others to take first place ^_^ The best part was the prize, as shown on the left.

I take that back. The best part was learning the game from Kyoko-san, who just flew in from Japan the day before. And my insistence on explaining my cosplay after she inquired about my shirt. I think I took her apathy for misunderstanding XD

This would be the end of the story except the reader can see that more words follow.

Anohana sold out before I got to the theater, so my Saturday began on a sour note. Mere hours later, I got an email that would not only turn around my day but bring more delight than I ever thought possible. Kyoko-san wrote hoping that I could attend the New Year’s celebration hosted by the JCAW on Sunday where she and Ms. Stone would have another karuta demonstration. An invitation one cannot refuse.

Once again I will let the motion pictures do the talking. (More here.)

I want to express my gratitude towards Ms. Stone and Kyoko-san, as well as Nanami and Ms. Stone’s son (the reader!) for giving me the opportunity to experience karuta first hand. It’s a dream come true ever since Chihayafuru entered my life. Speaking of which, at the conclusion of Wednesday night, Ms. Stone mentioned that she had a dream.

“I hope in an year or ten, the U.S. will hold a karuta tournament and the winner would go on to compete in Japan.”

I am going to try to make her dream come true, just like she did for mine. But we need your help. Let’s spread our love of karuta!

12 Days of Christmas: Otakon Cosplay Fail?


This anime moment is not exactly a fond one. It was Saturday night at Otakon and I was hanging out with Linda at Jenag’s and Hazu’s hotel room where a who’s who of anibloggers were throwing a party. It was rather amusing because someone had to remind the group to keep our voices down every five minutes so we didn’t get busted.  Unexpectedly, I ran into Yuyu there of all places, which was cool. (We did get busted eventually but that’s not the sad memory for me.)

Mike Toole was there. He had no shortage of those seeking conversation with him. I waited until there was a lull before approaching him. I placed my medical mask on before proceeding to fish out the karuta cards AnimatedInk generously lent me earlier that morning to complete my cosplay. I showed Mike the cards. There was a quick twinkle in his eye before he cheerfully announced to the room that I had karuta cards on me. The room did not care. Still, this did not bother me. We introduced ourselves and I waited for him to comment on my cosplay.

Instead, he stared blankly at me. He had been drinking the entire time so I guess that had an effect. I was still very downtrodden. At a con as enormous as Otakon, it’s already depressing enough that no one cosplays the anime of the year but I can grudgingly accept that. Mike, however, is a big Chihayafuru fan. He tweeted about it regularly when the show was airing. Of all the people, I expected him to recognize my cosplay. Maybe it sucked and he didn’t want to hurt my feelings XD After all, GendoMike didn’t recognize it either ;_;

Anyone who is still wondering about my cosplay should watch the show again!

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 24: When I Must Hide These Feelings


So Arata won because the Queen was sick? Here I was thinking the match is akin to the US Open in 2009 when Del Potro defeated the five time defending champion Federer who has never lost to the Argentine previously. I guess this means there must be a rematch in the future so I will take it.

With the conclusion of the tournament, I wonder what the last episode will be about. Hoping for a reunion among the three protagonists when they finally get a reprieve to catch up followed by a cliffhanger to ensure a third season!

I decided to look up the poem Kana-chan is referring to which led me to this fantastic Chihayafuru/poetry blog. It’s a keeper. Anyways, love. The one word that conjures more words than any other and in this case, pain, which I am all too familiar with.

The last time I fell in love and acted upon it resulted in a disaster of polemic proportions. I am still suffering consequences directly from it today and will likely for my lifetime. Indirectly, it’s made me far more cautious to love again. I am ridiculously tsuntsundere so it’s not obvious that loving is to me as karuta is to Chihaya. Imposing restrictions on love has certainly made me feel as if I am immolating soothed only by my tears as I cry myself to sleep.

That said, love.

While I refrain from the verb in my 3D existence, I will make up for it in 2D. (I was going to use this song for my review of episode eleven of Aku no Hana as a potential love letter Kasuga could write to Nakamura-san but given my last attempt was not well received, I decided to shelve it except now I will apply it to Chihaya, just don’t tell her what I just said mmmkthxbye.)

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 23: To See The Beautiful Cherry Blossoms


As if there was any doubt previously, I am definitely cosplaying Arata for Otakon. And now I know exactly what to say and the expression to say it with. This moment marks the birth of arata as a new word. It’s definition? Sexier than sexy. Usage: The word countach isn’t enough to do justice to Kana-chan in a hakama, only arata!

Arata will win. My guess and hope are that they will drag out the victory over the last two nail biting episodes. Perhaps we will learn of a new karuta tactic from the master candidate.

I don’t know if I can do what Chihaya did. In a never before display of maturity, her genuine gesture of friendship is enough to induce tears. Her falling to her knees and sobbing while holding on to Taichi… highly envious. Enough for me to reconsider cosplaying Taichi instead of Arata.

It’s another heartfelt reminder why Chihaya is so adorable (besides her penchant to fall asleep anywhere, anytime). Whereas everyone else merely has feelings, she radiates nothing short of passion.

The greater beauty that unfolds here lies in Taichi’s intentions. Knowing precisely the sacrifice Chihaya is making to cheer him on, he vows to win quickly which hurt him until he motivates himself by his desire to beat the person spectating his match. It’s truly romantic in a comical and tragic way. Exactly my kind of romance.

I am still shipping Chihaya x Arata.


Chihayafuru 2 Episode 22: Long Last We Meet


Fashion fades, only style remains the same.

Coco’s infinite fashion wisdom in those words defined and continues to shape my wardrobe choices. Two weeks ago, as some of you know, Mike was invited to speak at the launch of Lacoste’s Tezuka collection. I can only hope that Chihayafuru will grow to a level of popularity that induces Chanel or a haute couture house to establish a Snowmaru or Bear collection.

While I am still pondering Lacoste’s decision to inject anime into fashion, I find the reverse far more interesting. Because this week’s episode was rather slow given that something impossible did not happen, I will let the reader suffer through some anime outfits that left an impression on me.

KiraI had always been jealous of Kira Yamato’s daily wear from Gundam Seed. The cut of his jacket is simply devine. The cropped hem that frames the midriff is something typically observed in womenswear so it was very refreshing to see. Add the punk and bondage accoutrements and Gareth Pugh quickly springs to mind and that is always a good thing.


PrissThere’s just something about leather. Especially from head to toe like the way Priss Asagiri rocks it in Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040. Corset, jacket, pants and boots. Her choice to encase herself in the tough material certainly speaks directly to her fierce personality. The contrast of the red jacket works very well.


Strike WitchesBefore I am labeled a leather fetishist, let us turn to the overwhelmingly popular fashion icon of Japan: pantsu. This is particularly well done in Strike Witches. (Don’t laugh.) Fashion can achieve many things, personally, it’s best when it serves as titillation. The just barely there shirts of these lovely witches arrest me every time. The teasing glimpses of the beauty beneath remain timeless. Indeed, there’s arguably nothing sexier than a lover in just a buttoned down dress shirt and panties. If it wasn’t enough, the juxtaposition of the pompous top against the… well, nothing really, creates a winning combination.

Mommy BearFinally, there’s the exceedingly rare Mammy Bear tanktop. Ok, there’s actually nothing to see here, just including this because it’s relevant to the show at hand.

What anime fashion stayed with you?

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 21: But Its Legacy Continues to Spread


That was… not possible. I realize it’s anime and the lovely and talented Chihaya but one does not reach comparable dexterity in the non dominant hand within minutes. It makes me feel old to remark that I will probably always type faster on a keyboard than a touch screen. Five or ten years from now, keyboards will be the VHS tapes of this generation. Change takes time. Muscle memory takes time. The single difference of one less dimension is enough to cause measurable detriment in my typing ability. The practiced motions of karuta, like typing, become innate.

While the z axis is fairly significant for most of us unlike MLM, it’s fascinating that its elimination was deemed an advance in typing technology even if touch is arguably our most sensitive sense. I wonder how karuta would play out if instead of actually needing to physically make contact with the card, one can just point to it. This will likely require empires at each match similar to baseball though.


Apparently the sum of student debt has reached $1 trillion according to the LA Times. Rising costs of higher education has lingered in the news more often than before for good reason. It’s ridiculous made more so by the amenities schools are offering to students. HD television in dorms and 2,100-gallon aquarium? I totally picked the wrong school! At this rate, one of them will soon boast a dedicated karuta hall.

Meanwhile, massive open online courses continue to make interesting waves. I definitely like the wikipedia spirit of the concept as well as the convenience factor for those of us with too much anime to watch and too little time. Of course one would need to exercise more self discipline which begs the question. What is the the most effective way of learning? Drop Valrave like I did to free some time and you can read all about it here! ($5 to anyone who reads the entire thing.)

One final thought. Arata’s got some competition. Porky-kun is the Nadal of karuta. That makes him very sexy. For as long as he has been playing, which is roughly his entire life, Arata was always one step above. Instead of being discouraged, he does not give up. It also reflects on the imitable work ethic instilled on him by the Mizusawa team.

I lied. One more thing. I have to admit that I am conflicted. So. Readers, Chihaya or Shinobu?

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 20: Of the Autumn Rice Field


Is it just me or is Kana-chan so much cuter drawn in Azumanga style? And shame on you Arata for that heinous remark regarding Sumire. On account of your amazingly adorable blush, I shall forgive you this time.

I really like Shinobu. Her ego barely fits through the door but her ability is wider. Her angry determination can only mean delightful fireworks in the near future.

One of the joys I had playing the violin involved the mandatory use of my left or non dominant hand. I had fears that my right would perform much better than the other so it pleased me to know that both of my hands function on par with each other. And it provided my only opportunity to put my left hand to use. My sentiments are not shared by those who elect to match their instrument to dominant hand such as Courtney from Me & This Army who plays with a left handed guitar.

It would be fascinating to learn the evolutionary reason in developing a particular side of the brain that leads to a dominance. Just like learning new languages, we are clearly capable of equal dexterity in both. Instead of training to take cards with certain fingers, Chihaya should have brought both hands into her repertoire.

There must be left handed karuta players though. Does it provide an advantage like baseball or tennis?

While they’re certainly karuta rivals, Taichi has to be referring to the love triangle. Given I have never had such a problem, I won’t pretend to give bad advice. That said, it’s depressing that we confine our love lives to such narrow paradigms. Threesome and polygamy are words for a good reason. And like one’s non dominant hand, if one has such inclinations, it’s fun to put them in action!


Chihayafuru 2 Episode 19: I Do Not Know Where This Love Will Take Me


“Remember to breath,” Taichi thinks to himself, demonstrating more self control arguably than anyone else watching this week’s episode. And we are not even playing.

Of course, in true Chihayafuru teasing fashion, we do not know the outcome between the Hokuo and Akashi match. Chihaya’s status for the individual tournament is unclear. For the time being, none of that matters however.

Kana-chan’s display of love and respect for karuta astounds more than any English word can convey. At least rate, she’s going to steal my heart from Chihaya.


I am impressed with Fujisaki’s coach’s admission of fault. She made a keen observation that I agree highly with. A quagmire of skilled players does not compute to teamwork. Skill is certainly necessary in any endeavor and its importance rises with the level of play. The trick lies in calculating the point of diminishing returns especially as a function of teamwork.

What happens with skill if we take time to infinity? Teamwork? Will both increase indefinitely? It would be an incredibly groovy feat to derive an equation to determine these variables because this is as much art as it is mathematics. Somehow, I get the feeling that skill is much more finite than teamwork. The synergy of the latter holds limitless possibilities. Afterall, Mizusawa was not favored to win.

Sometimes skill and teamwork are still not enough. I don’t remember if it was Macross or Lupin that said, “For some of us, luck is a skill.” I do remember the Dean of the school claiming that luck is the one thing he always hoped to have more than anything else. It makes sense. For those of us that play poker, we have all experienced the frustration and disbelief even though we made the correct play.

Skill, teamwork and luck. The triforce of karuta!


Chihayafuru 2 Episode 18: My Fear is That You Will Forget


Arata isn’t even trying and he’s still oozing sex simply by squatting outside the tournament doors. That’s the key to being truly sexy. It’s never forced. It just is. I am upset we got to view Shinobu’s pantsu but never Arata’s underwear. Sexist. Anyways.

This week will be a public service announcement on introversion. I am too lazy to look it up now but at the time of publication, the most popular article written on The Atlantic was one explaining introverts. Extroverts and society in general seem to have great difficulty in understanding their counterpart.

The state of being alone does not equate loneliness. The latter mostly stems from an inability to connect with others and partly from a lack of stimulation. I love being alone. I am a fierce introvert. I much prefer my own company over others. This is why I would attend cons with friends but rarely hang out with them throughout the duration.

There are definitely instances where I can’t stand to be around others but it’s usually an inclination to observe, reflect, introspect. An extrovert shouldn’t take that personally.


Introverts are not shy. I have spent hours standing next to the busiest intersection at Otakon asking passing cosplayers for photos. I do not make small talk and consider it a waste of time. I strive for more intimate conversations. Introverts keep a small but intense circle of friends. The choice of conjunction there is tellingly curious. Extroversion is the dominant, default state.

While one isn’t necessary healthier or better than the other, demands of life and progress tend to require collaboration. That said, introverts would outlast on an island =P

Playing against those better certainly helps but lacking the magical logic of MLM, I fail to comprehend how one may improve in karuta from isolation. We got a glimpse of Shinobu’s childhood in which she is matched against older karuta players in an effort to keep her alone, almost to the point of alienation.

This sheds some light on some of her actions meant as comic relief such as sneezing on someone else’s sleeve and wearing unconventional pantsu and not seeing the merits of team karuta. It’s troublesome. Introversion is perfectly healthy. Alienation is not.

Let’s hope Mizusawa takes three wins and demonstrate to Shinobu that team work is a lot of fun and rewarding as well.


Chihayafuru 2 Episode 17: Gust of Wind


Last week was a total tease. At the cusp of the finals, we were fed a recap episode instead. The interrupted timing subdued the excitement of the match for this week but it ended in spectacular fashion as usual.

This week definitely revolved around Chihaya but I keep thinking of Kana-chan. The seemingly effortless yet heartfelt manner in which she paints a landscape for each card is inspiring. For her teammate it’s a catalyst to take cards. For me, it’s an attempt to make art.

Very often art is simply the act of recognizing something as such. In other words, it’s seeing something that’s not apparently… apparent. Good writing, writing that shapes into art, literature is rarely apparent. Writers are very egotistical in a sense. They think they have something worth saying when it’s usually just some trite thought thrown into a blender and repackaged like a shiny new toothpaste box.

Sour grapes is literary art. I remember reading the fable when I was five and questioning my mother. Even after her explanation I still failed to comprehend the fox. The eureka moment didn’t come until years later and it hit me like a brick. It’s genius really. Thousands of years, billions of books, infinite human emotions and experiences later, every possible word has likely been written. In fact, there is nothing original in the preceding sentence or this entire piece. (I can’t find the source to attribute it to though.)

Yet art will endure. Kana-chan or someone will develop a feeling or thought and conjure it into something greater. Something that others can relate to and draw inspiration from.

Chihayafuru is art. Before the first season (or the manga really), could anyone even fathom a story built on karuta? So I sit here at my keyboard and strive to achieve what the anime of the year accomplished.


Chihayafuru 2 Episode 15: No Matter Where I Stand


At roughly $30 billion a year, revenues of the pantsu industry surpasses the market capitalization of Time Warner, Sears and Dell. Sometimes I wonder how the prevalence of pantsu affects youth in the same way watching Gundam might but that’s beyond the scope of this discourse.

Not it’s not. There’s always time and space for pantsu. But first Kana-chan.

I am in love. She is incredibly mature for a high school student. And I am not talking about her humps Monsieur LaMoe. Her motives for lying beguile her age. The rationalization behind deceit fascinates me immensely. I actually make a hobby out of it. It amuses me when one argues that deceit does not constitute lying. While technically true, the distinction is facetious. However, lies are not all made equally.

The worst lies are the instances where we lie to ourselves. It could be cognitive dissonance or pretending to be someone else to impress a potential lover or a lifelong pursuit of a false passion. Lying is cowardice.

Lying is also courage. I previously mentioned my favorite scene from Moulin Rouge. The capacity to deliver that lie and betray every iota of truth for love is definitely something I can’t trust myself to accomplish.

A tweet lingers in my mind and heart as I struggle to write this.


I had wanted to respond to 2DT regarding packing fake abs to swim at Fanime. Now it’s evolved into an entire post. While flat abs certainly holds sex appeal, I long for a wider acceptance of beauty. It’s not a stretch to suggest that context influences perceptions of beauty not unlike lying. Just like lying isn’t inherently right or wrong, a certain physical characteristic should not be considered beautiful or otherwise by default.

In this episode, we literally saw Shinobu in her underwear. The show somehow insists in making her… weird and their choice in doing so via pantsu begs a question. Why is her pantsu weird?  Lingerie primary serves the male gaze and the status quo reinforces a narrow ideal in pantsu styles. I am hoping her underwear sparks a catalyst for more refreshing approaches.


Chihayafuru 2 Episode 14: People Would Always Ask If I Was Pining for Someone


There’s a popular doctrine stating that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I disagree. My tenth grade World Civilization teacher explained his reasoning in one of the many after school chats we had. Even if something is not broken, there is always better. Of the numerous things we talked about, this one particularly stood out because it changed a paradigm at the onset of my blossoming intellect.

This is especially true in writing. I am a terrible writer as most of you noticed by now from my blogging Chihayafuru. It’s a challenge. And it’s very discouraging at times when I read others’ creations with words. Just last night, I felt sick upon reading “…irresistibly human“. The mastery demonstrated to capture and express so much more in that succinctness rivals that of 2DT. It makes me feel hopeless.

Yet I am reminded that there are countless other writers that are better than Lauren and 2DT. So what makes a certain piece of writing better than another? After all, it’s just a certain arrangement and combination of chosen words. How does one improve that? I  ponder that each week as I humbly request your audience.

To be specific, how do I translate ALL THE FEELS I have for Chihayafuru onto paper? It’s not just cliche to express that there are no words for the rush of euphoria that comes with watching each episode. It’s an unacceptable surrender to the philosophy bestowed all those years by my teacher. That said, there are no words for the closing scene involving Kana-chan =P


I still lack an answer.

There is one thing that I am certain of though. Good writing transcends the topic at hand. The expression of a particular thought and idea does not stand alone in a vacuum. Everything is interconnected more or less. Good writing bridges the world around us.

Perhaps my readers can help me improve my writing.

Like team karuta, everyone brings a different perspective to the game. The same holds true for writing. I have a tendency to write through a lens of gender politics and this episode baited me with Porky’s exclamation of “I will treat her like a boy” which I had to fight to decline. I am really asking. You can’t see it but my fist is as tight as Chihaya’s.