Wednesday, December 23, 2009


One of the greatest assets I had working as an ALT in Japan was dozens and dozens of handmade karuta cards.

Popular in most Japanese schoolyards, karuta cards can be used for any number of various games, the most popular (at least amongst ALTs) being the 'Recognition' type games (you teach them the alphabet, spread out the cards, each with a letter, and then watch as the kids fight over the 'B' when you call it out).

I had all sorts - animals, shapes, fruits, etc. - but I never had any as awesome as these! Found at a suburban Tokyo flea market by a fellow gaijen (though I'll confess we've never met), these cards seem to have been made for me. Japan + Animation + Yokai!

Mickey seen here getting along quite well with one of the hundreds of various Japanese spirits.

And here again, in quite different company. Apparently "ano ne no ossan" translates into something like "Mr. You Know Who." I won't make any assumptions, but the mustache is certainly suspicious.

Mickey is joined by a few other recognizable characters (Japan, well outside Disney's jurisdiction, tends to 'borrow' from them a lot).

Donald Duck, with neighboring "American Soldier".

Pop-Eye and Tarzan make a rather unexpected appearance, though I'm sure these were in circulation well before "Stitchu" won the hearts of all pre-teen schoolgirls.

And there's been no end to the appropriation of characters as you can see from this 1980's menko card featuring E.T. alongside 2001's Discovery.


SheWalksSoftly said...

These are amazing! My favorite is the duck/soldier combo. :-)

Liesje said...

Thanks! I was amazed I'd never come across them before (especially all the times I Google Image Search the word 'yokai').