Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nintendo Iroha Karuta (いろはかるた) - part 2

In the first part of this post, Nintendo's Iroha Karuta were introduced. This is an educational card game, that help children learn the Japanese hiragana script.

Nintendo wasn't the only company producing these cards, and in order to beat the competition and make sure the public continued buying their sets, new designs were regularly created.

In the 1970s, Nintendo expanded its line of Iroha Karuta with a new, broad selection of themed sets that catered to many different interests, as we will see below.

Nintendo Iroha Karuta from the 1970s

This series of Karuta is recognizable by bright, colorful drawings on the box front.


Let's take a closer look at each of these sets.

The first one is called Tanoshī Yōchien Karuta (たのしい幼稚園 かるた), which means 'Fun Kindergarten Cards'.


As with each Iroha Karuta game, the set consists of 48 'yomifuda' or 'reading cards' and 48 'torifuda' or 'grabbing cards'. The reading cards contain a Japanese phrase, and the grabbing cards a related picture with the first hiragana symbol from the phrase.

Nintendo Tanoshī Yōchien Karuta

The cards show scenes from the lives of boys and girls in kindergarten. Because these children will only just have started reading hiragana, the phrases are relatively simple. In cases were katakana is used in the phrases, the related hiragana are also provided next to them. As katakana is usually taught after hiragana, it may not be well-known yet to all children of this age.


In one of the examples shown here, the grabbing card with 'い' needs to be spotted and picked up (grabbed) when the corresponding reading card with the phrase 'いそいでわたるうおうだんほどう' is read. This translates to 'Let's cross the zebra crossing in a hurry'.

For more details about the game rules, check out part 1 of this post.


The next set is called Dōbutsu Karuta (どうぶつ かるた), which means 'Animal Cards'.


This theme is really self-explanatory, isn't it? Cards with animals.

Nintendo Dōbutsu Karuta

All these Iroha Karuta sets use Nintendo's standard box design from the early 1970s, with the letter 'N' logo on the side.


The box also contain a logo with the text '任天堂 いろは かるた', which of course means 'Nintendo Iroha Karuta'.

Nintendo Iroha Karuta logo

I realize that in the first part of this post I forgot to explain why these cards are called 'Iroha'. The reason is actually quite simple. The hiragana symbol set is organized in a certain order, just like the Western alphabet (A, B, C etc). The hiragana table most commonly used in the past starts with 'い', 'ろ' and 'は', which reads as 'i', 'ro' and 'ha'. This is called the iroha ordering.

These days, a second ordering - called gojūon ordering - is actually much more common. This ordering is more logically structured (but less poetic), and starts with the symbols 'あ', 'い', 'う', 'え', and 'お', which reads as 'a', 'i', 'u', 'e' and 'o'. However, up to the present day, Iroha Karuta are still called that. It also sounds better than Aiueo Karuta would sound.

Moving on to set number three: Nazonazo Karuta (なぞなぞ かるた), or 'Riddle Cards'.


The reading cards of this set contain riddles, with answers.

Nintendo Nazonazo Karuta

The next set is called Mukashibanashi Karuta (むかしばなし かるた), which means 'Old Tale Cards'.


These cards depict scenes from classic stories.

Nintendo Mukashibanashi Karuta

The Nakayoshi Karuta (なかよし一年生 かるた) set must have been a popular set back in the 1970s, because it is one of the sets that you can find relatively easy these days.


The name translates to 'Best friend annual Cards'.

Nintendo Nakayoshi Karuta

The Mono Shiri Karuta (ものしり かるた) or 'Know-it-all Cards' are almost too educational.


Not only do these teach hiragana, but they also provide an interesting bit of trivia on each card.

Nintendo Mono Shiri Karuta

The final set of this series is called Norimono Karuta (のりもの かるた), or 'Transportation Cards'.


This set contains cards with all matter of trains, planes and automobiles. Boats and rocket ships are also included.

The front shows a picture of the original Shinkansen train from 1964 (the so-called '0 series'), which introduced the world to high-speed train travel. Around the time when this set of cards was created, only a handful of years after the Shinkansen launch, this train was still very new and extremely modern (well, I think they actually still look modern today).

Nintendo Norimono Karuta

That's it for part 2 of the coverage of Nintendo's Iroha Karuta. Please stay tuned for more in the near future.

Stack of Nintendo Iroha Karuta

For more information about Iroha Karuta, check out part 1 and part 3 of this post.

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