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Everything Japan - from Anime to Myth!
Everything Japan - from Anime to Myth!

Karuta - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu - Saisho no Uta

みんなさんこんにちは!私はー Oh snap, wrong language.

Illustration for article titled Karuta - Ogura Hyakunin Isshu - Saisho no Uta

In any case, hi guys! Today, I’ll be sharing the first poem from the hit card game traditional Japanese card game Karuta! Yes! I’ll be doing all hundred and one poems, inclusive of the opening poem, which I’ll share today!

I’m doing this because I’m trying to memorize all of them, before I try my hand at playing the game! Where’d I get it from? Chihayafuru of course! Though I cannot lie; as a literature student and a geek for all things Japan, I find these poems fascinating. So there, enjoy!


It’ll be in three forms, Japanese, Romaji, and also English, using my own translation. I’ll also share some of the history and thoughts I have on the poem.


難波津に 咲くやこの花 冬ごもり いまを春べと 咲くやこの花


なにわづに さくやこのはな ふゆごもり いまをはるべと さくやこのはな


Naniwa-zu ni/Sakuya kono haana/Fuyu-gomori/Ima o haru-be to/Sakuya kono hana


In Naniwa bay, the flowers lay dormant for winter. But they bloom, as spring comes.



It was written by Wani, a semi-legendary scholar who is said to come to Japan from Baekje around the late 3rd century.

After the three years of interregnum, the 16th emperor of Japan, Emperor Nintoku, finally assumed the Imperial Throne. The poem was written for celebrating the reign of the emperor and wishing his reign would be flourished. Actually this poem has nothing to do with Ogura 100 Poems. It is from Kokin Wakashu poem anthology which was compiled about 300 years prior to Ogura. - Chihayafuru Wiki


Personal Interpretation

A very straightforward poem, it mainly focuses on the transition between Winter and Spring, and is thus about the resurgence of life, and also of fortune. Written for the ascension of Emporer Nintoku, it is a poem that is of quite a great significance. It’s use as the opening of a karuta game is symbolic, as the karuta game is meant for both the players to improve upon their game.


The flowers are most likely plum blossoms, which bloom towards the end of Winter, into the midst of Spring. The strength and resilience of these plum blossoms are a great symbol for life, and also for fortune, blessing fortuitous growth, and blessed luck.

As an aside: this is the official “序歌” (Jo-ka) of the National Karuta Association of Japan. So it’s the only poem used in competition that has no corresponding card associated with it to grab, hence why it is read first. It’s basically to set the tone for the competition and get people in an artful mood.

Thus, it’s also the only poem that competitively can be changed freely. The other 100 poems used are all identical in every karuta game, but the “序歌” see regional variation and traditions—in theory, any poem can be used.

Thanks to ro37 for the info!

So that’s it for the first poem, out of a hundred! Please look forward to the others, coming soon!

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