ancient poem is written

It was my birthday yesterday and my parents sent me presents. The gifts from my mother were exactly the same necklace as the one she had sent me a couple of years ago, a vinyl bag which she apparently had got as a freebie, and some towels she didn’t use anymore. She also enclosed a bag of rice crackers. My hometown is in Kyoto that is a Japanese historic city with a lot of old temples and shrines. Many stores there take advantage of the location and use the historic sites and events as their signature designs for wrapping.

The store my mother bought rice crackers used a Japanese classic card game. It’s played with 100 cards on each of which an ancient poem is written. For some reason, I was very good at the game when I was a teenager. I haven’t played it for a long time. Some of the 100 poems were printed on the wrapping of the rice crackers and I remembered how good I was. The best present from my mother this year was a wrapper of a snack…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

unspoken rule of the game

The classic card game is usually played during New Year’s in Japan. There used to be a family gathering in New Year’s in my house every year. On one New Year gathering after I won the tournament of the game at school, I suggested to play it because I had become extremely good at it. I played with my relatives and my grandfather. I won dominantly by getting most of the cards. Then, my grandfather began to be angry with me, saying I was unfair. In 100 poems the cards hold, a player often has his or her favorite poem. It’s considered that person’s specialty, called ‘my eighteenth’ in Japan. No player other than that person can take the card on which his or her favorite poem is written, even if the card is right in front of you. Other players concede it by letting the person pick the card on purpose. They say it’s an unspoken rule of the game. I ignored it and just kept taking as many cards as I could whether it was somebody’s eighteenth or not, because to me, the game was a matter of memory and speed. With my grandfather, my relatives also began to complain. Although the game was one of very few things I was good at, nobody had played it with me ever since…