Tengu mask, Taisho period (1912-1926)
Tengu mask, Taisho period (1912-1926)

Tengu mask


The oldest type of Tengu had a face that was bird-like, with a beak. Over time this became a long nose, and was probably incorporating elements of Sarutahiko, so long-nosed, red faced mask are sometimes called tengu, sometimes Saratahiko.

Tengu are some of the oldest mythological 'deities' in Japan. they inhabit trees, are good swordsmen, and are fond of playing tricks on human beings. Being part bird and part man, they have wings and large noses. Nowadays, long-nose Tengu find their way into many local Matsuri festivals, as a phallic symbol indicative of fertility and good harvest.

Hyakunin Isshu Karuta, Late Edo
Hyakunin Isshu Karuta, Late Edo

The karuta game

The basic idea of any karuta game is to be able to quickly determine which card out of an array of cards is required and then to grab the card before it is grabbed by an opponent. There are various types of cards which can be used to play karuta. It is also possible to play this game using two standard decks of playin cards.

There are two kinds of cards used in karuta. One kind is yomifuda (読札) or "reading cards", and the other is torifuda (取り札) or "grabbing cards." As they were denoted, the words in the yomifuda are read and players will have to find its associated torifuda before anybody else does.  The two types of karuta cards that are most often seen are the "uta-garuta" and "iroha-garuta". In "uta-garuta" , players try to find the last two lines of a tanka given the first three lines. It is often possible to identify a poem by its first one or two syllables. The poems for this game are taken from the Hyakunin Isshu and are traditionally played on New Year's Day.

Anyone who can readhiragana can play "iroha-garuta" (いろはがるた). In this type, a typical torifuda features a drawing with a kana at one corner of the card. Its corresponding yomifuda features a proverb connected to the picture with the first syllable being the kana displayed on the torifuda.


Japanese Netsuke
short description of Netsukes
Microsoft Word Document 164.8 KB


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