Karuta and Setsubun
February 8th, 2013

Karuta

First, karuta is a Japanese card game where each card has a letter [a Japanese letter that is] and a picture, and that letter is the beginning of a proverb phrase, while the picture represents the phrase. A group of players circles around the cards face up and the proverbs are said out loud. When you hear the first letter of the proverb, you slap the corresponding card; however, you don’t even have to wait for the proverb to be fully said…you just need to listen for the first letter. For example, turtle and moon, tsuki to suppon, which refers to things being “as different as a turtle and the moon,” begins with “tsu.” When you hear “tsu,” you look for the corresponding card and the first one who slaps it gets it. The winner in the end has the most cards [reminded me a bit of Egyptian war...]. My first round I got a pitiful two…my reaction time is quite bad…my second time I got eight though, which was a nice improvement. The most I think any one person got was 12 or so in one round.

My entire program got to play at a traditional building with a tatami mat and everything, so that was pretty cool.

Setsubun

Setsbun, 節分, a festival marking the beginning of spring, was last Sunday [February 3rd]; my first Japanese festival!

So, setsubun consists of literal bean throwing, mamemaki. The beans [mame] are thrown at people dressed as demons [oni], to get rid of evil and bring in good fortune. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to actually witness this reenactment due to too many people crowding around the shrine I went to with my friends…

However, I did get to enjoy some amazing festival [matsuri] street food. Including [my first] taiyaki, hashimaki, skewered squid, and mitarashi dango, all of which were amazing.

The funny thing was while walking around the probably 50 or so food stands, my friends and I noticed that people were mostly eating while walking, which is not very Japanese [nihon-teki, 日本的], and we had just talked about it in class recently. But I guess good food calls for certain social norms to be violated.

Other things there were takoyaki, okonomiyaki, chocolate covered bananas, various meat skewers, sobayaki, sobayaki in an omelette, and various other types of delicious looking food.

Another aspect of setsubun is to eat a ehomaki, which is basically a sushi roll that isn’t cut, so it’s just a long sushi roll. My host mother made me one, and although she wasn’t able to tell me why this tradition exists, you are supposed to eat it as is, without cutting it up. It’s a bit difficult since the roll is also wider than typical sushi rolls, but eating it in bits [betsu betsu, 別々] was alright.

Anyway, I could be more detailed, but that was what I got on my own; there is of course a more thorough description on Wikipedia.

Taiyaki is usually a fish shaped…bread-like thing filled with red bean paste; they also had nifty ice cream parfait ones at the festival.

Hashimaki is a thin crepe-like-dough wrapped around chopsticks [hashi], which sauces and onions. It was probably the best thing I had all night; it was the cheapest, the most volume wise, and delicious.

Mitarashi dango is a sweet doughy ball that is dipped in a mildly sweet, but very thick, sauce. You can also buy them in stores, but doesn’t beat the real thing dipped in warm sauce right in front of you.

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A little bit of an intro...

This is my personal site to post some stuff – stuff that is so random I can’t really be any more specific. But if you care for photos of food, panoramas, my day, or just the thoughts that go on in my head, please stay!

I love to travel, bake, burn time on tumblr, read, cafe questing, and run around pretending to be a photographer. I also have a thing for Japanese, classical music, and food. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I hope to do it with a smile, see new things, do everything, and just experience and take it all in.