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Unsun Karuta
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 Posted: Thu Dec 31st, 2009 05:30 am
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papoon
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Joined: Mon Apr 7th, 2008
Location: California USA
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Just received a very intriguing deck of replica Japanese Unsun Karuta playing cards with an accompanying booklet that explains the rules of the game and traces the history of the cards. It was privately printed by playing card historians Virginia and Harold Wayland in 1981. They are still available as a set for only $25.00 (plus shipping) from Screenfold Press in Arizona. Quite the deal, I think, for anyone interested in the history of playing cards.

Briefly, Unsun cards date from the mid-1700s and are based in many ways on the original 48 card decks first introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in the late 1500s. However, there are five suits instead of four (Batons, Swords, Coins, Cups, and Guru), and six courts, for a total of 75 cards (pips are 1-9). They were used to play a trick-taking game with some elements very similar to to the 16th century games, Tarocchi and Ombre. Interestingly, manufacture of the cards ended in the early 20th century and by mid-century it was believed that all knowledge of how the game was played had been lost. But, in 1971, there was discovered a small group of elderly men in Hitoyoshi City in Kyushu who met occasionally to play Unsun with their one remaining complete deck. It was from them that the rules were documented and it was their deck that was the basis of the Wayland replica.

The cards are a delightful mix of east and west with a lot of stylistic similarities to early tarot cards. You can learn more about them and see scans of cards from the deck the Wayland set is a replica of here. Scroll about halfway down the page for the Unsun Karuta info.

Attachment: unsunkaruta.jpg (Downloaded 27 times)

Last edited on Mon Jan 2nd, 2012 06:48 pm by papoon

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