Shochan Godzilla Karuta

10.28.2020

Have you ever heard of karuta? I only learned about karuta a few weeks ago during a discussion with Godzilla toy expects Sean Linkenback, author of An Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles, and Mike Johnson of Club Tokyo on Collect All Monsters “Vintage Kaiju Vinyl” Group Chat. I had seen photos of karuta on social media over the years, but I never knew what I was looking at, what it was, and what it was all about until now.

Old karuta sample (Source: Cinnamon Cardamon)

Karuta is a traditional Japanese card game introduced by Portuguese traders to Japan in the 16th century. The Japanese word karuta (hiragana: かるた, katakana: カルタ, kanji: 歌留多) comes the Portuguese word carta meaning “card.” Karuta is played usually played during the New Year by all ages. There are two main types of karuta, Uta-Garuta and Iroha Karuta for children. The cards come in two sets, one set called yomifuda (reading cards) and the other torituda (grabbing cards). To play the game requires a reader or caller and two or more players. Each yomifuda card has a corresponding torifuda card. The cards are laid face up on a flat surface between the players. The reader draws and reads a yomifuda card. Players listen and compete to grab the right torifuda card that corresponds with the yomifuda card. The game continues until one player has the most cards. And the player with the most cards wins.

The earliest Godzilla karuta game was Monster Karuta Godzilla (鈴木出版 怪獣かるた ゴジラ) published by Suzuki Publishing in the 1950s. The box features original art by Hisao Yukama, illustrator of the Shonen Club’s Godzilla Raids Again manga. Seika Karuta Godzilla and Dinosaurs (セイカ かるた ゴジラと恐竜) was released in 1978. In the 80s, Seika published Karuta Toho Monster Godzilla (セイカ かるた 東宝怪獣ゴジラ). These karuta range in price from a little as $30 to as much as $2000.

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And then there is the Shochan Karuta Godzilla (ショウワノート しょうちゃんかるた ゴジラ) published by Showa Note. (Showa Note Co., Ltd. is a stationery manufacturer that mainly manufactures and sells study books for school children and character goods centered on TV characters. The head office is located in Sano, Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture, and the headquarters is located in Shinkawa, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. It is known as the top brand of study books and it is also strong in character products (karuta, coloring, etc.). It used to manufacture stationery for the general public, but now it specializes in school children.) I found the Showa Note card set several days ago on Buyee Japan. In the past, I would have given little attention to such a Godzilla collectible. But ever since I returned to collecting vintage items, I can’t look away. The illustrations are gorgeous and they give all the feelings of nostalgia from the showa era. The set is complete and in great condition.

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Whether books, posters, or karuta, Godzilla paper stuff (紙もの) make for great collectibles. Mandarake and Buyee Japan are great ways to build up a Godzilla print collection.