Last week, my English student brought me a bag of rice crackers with the Hyakunin Isshu pictures and poems printed on the labels. She attempted to explain the meaning of the card game to me. However, it had been so long since she played she wasn’t sure how to explain it correctly. In the meantime, she encouraged me to enjoy the crackers with my husband while sipping a beer. I followed her directions, poured us a pint and invited Dina and Brent to join us. The crackers were actually pretty good. Only one of them had a strong fish flavor. The rest were very good.

Today, she brought me a print out with an explanation of the game. According to the information, Hyakunin Isshu is a traditional Japanese playing card game. It is typically played on the Japanese New Year’s holiday. There are 100 cards with 100 different latter parts of poems written on each card. The collection of poems was chosen by a poet named Fujiwara of Teika during the Heian period.

If you look closely, you can see the poem written on the package next to the picture.

To play the game, the cards are arranged neatly on the floor face up. The “referee” reads allow the start of a poem and the players scramble to grab the correct corresponding card with the latter half of the poem. The player who is able to accumulate the most number of cards is the winner. The referee declares the winner after correctly assessing the cards selected by each player.

Maybe once I am fluent in Japanese, I will challenge my Japanese friends to a game. In the meantime, I will enjoy delicious rice crackers with my beer! Kanpie!