Shigure-den and the Hyakunin Isshu

April 17, 2006

by Chiaki Imanaka
Shigure-den and the Hyakunin Isshu

Do you know the Hyakunin Isshu? The Hyakunin Isshu is an anthology of 100 classical waka (poems that consist of 31 syllables) written by 100 different Japanese poets. Karuta is a card game that tests players’ knowledge of these poems.

Karuta is played with two sets of cards. One set is to be read: each card has an entire poem written on it, the poet’s name, and his or her portrait, so it is very colorful. The other set of cards is for contestants to pick up, and it only has the last line of the poem written on it. There are one hundred cards for reading and one hundred cards for picking up, so the Hyakunin Isshu karuta game consists of 200 cards altogether. Fujiwara Teika is the poet who originally edited this collection around the mid-thirteenth century. Among these hundred poems are poems about love, the four seasons, and other subjects. Men, women, and priests wrote these poems.

reading card & pick-up card

The Hyakunin Isshu began to be played as a card game in 1467. In this popular contest, someone reads the first line of one of the poems out loud from the set of reading cards and then the contestants look for the card with the same poem on it as fast as they can. These cards are laid out on the floor. When the person finds the card with the poem that was just read, he or she flicks it away and “wins” the card. Finally, the person who gets the most cards wins.

The two-story Shigure-den (Autumn Shower Palace) in Arashiyama is a museum where people can experience and learn about the Hyakunin Isshu. This building is two storeys high. At the entrance, you are given a hand-held navigator called the “Shigure-den Navi” and you can learn many things by using it. In the main room, there are many 45-inch, liquid-crystal monitors that display 70 large karuta cards and images of the city of Kyoto on the floor. You can take part in several activities here.

Shigure-den Navi

Kyoto Sky-Walk

In this interactive activity, aerial images of Kyoto City are projected over the entire floor. You can walk on top of them, so you feel as if you are walking around the city of Kyoto. When you decide a place you want to go, you can use your hand-held navigator to guide you there. Look closely and you can see cars running on roads, and also rivers, trains, and other interesting details. The “Kyoto Sky-Walk” interchanges with “Giant Karuta Cards” at regular intervals.

Giant Karuta Cards

The monitors on the floor also show 70 illustrated karuta cards. They are all reading cards from the Hyakunin Isshu. To play the game called “Giant Karuta Cards” you must look at a reading card on your hand-held navigator carefully and then look for the same card on the floor. The number of cards that you can find within a limited amount of time is your point total. After you have finished the game, you can check your ranking with the other participants who have played the game.

One Hundred Poem Bonanza

You can receive an explanation about and listen to a recitation of each poem in the Hyakunin Isshu at the “One Hundred Poem Bonanza”. The poems are all written on the wall and when you more close to one poem, you can learn more about it from the screen on your hand-held navigator. After finishing all of these activities, you must return your hand-held navigator.

The Sensory Karuta Game

You can challenge five famous poets in “The Sensory Karuta Game”. To start the game, you listen to a poem from the Hyakunin Isshu and choose the correct card from six cards displayed on a panel beneath your hand. The first line is then read out, and then after a short interval, the last line is read out; also both lines are shown on the screen in front of you. The first three poet opponents aren’t so quick, so you can easily win the card from them. By contrast, the fourth and fifth opponents are very fast, because they are able to identify a card after only the first line is read. Since you must remember both the first and last lines of each poem, it is very difficult to defeat all the opponents.

The Sunken Well of Charades

The “Sunken Well of Charades” is a simple quiz. You look at the screen and remember how the cards are arranged or solve some questions about the Hyakunin Isshu. You can touch the pictures directly in these games.

On the second floor of the museum is a big room where figures of the poets of the Hyakunin Isshu are displayed. Also, many sets of Hyakunin Isshu cards — from 1603 to today — are on exhibit.

In this museum some employees can speak English, and pamphlets in Korean and Chinese are provided. You can learn about Japanese culture as you enjoy playing many kinds of games.Website: 11 Susukinobaba, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-882-1111 (+81-75-882-1111)Directions (from website):
Take Sanin-Line from JR Kyoto Station. Get off at Sagano Arashiyama Station, then walk for 15 minutes.Take Keifuku-Arashiyama-Line from Shijyo-Omiya Station. Get off at Arashiyama Station, then walk for 10 minutes.Take Hankyu-Arashiyama-Line from Katsura Station. Get off at Arashiyama Station, then walk for 15 minutes.<Open>
10:00~17:00 (last entrance is 16:30)<Closed>
Monday (if Monday is holiday, Tuesday)
The end of December and the beginning of January (New Year holidays)<Admission>
800 yen (high school students and older)
500 yen (elementary and junior high school students)*Disabled people who have a handicap card can show their card and get free admission. Also, free assistance is provided for disabled persons who use a wheel chair.
*For people with pacemakers: please refrain from entering the museum because there is digital equipment that can affect pacemakers on the first floor.

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