Jomo is an old name for Gunma Prefecture. Karuta is a Japanese card game played mainly during the New Year holidays. Jomo Karuta is comprised of 45 picture and word cards, each of which depicts Gunma's historical figures, geographical features, cultural activities, etc.
The Gunma-ken Kodomokai Ikusei Rengokai, a public-service association, organizes an annual Jomo Karuta card game championship competition. As many as 600 elementary and junior high school students, who won the preliminary matches in their respective regions around Gunma meet in Maebashi to compete for championship in six categories. Contenders work hard to remember the cards and practice in their free time. As a result, Gunma natives become familiar with these cards and can recite them by heart as grown-ups.
Jomo Karuta was created in December of 1947. Only two years after losing a major war, the entire nation was struggling to survive. Children never had enough food to eat or clothes to keep them warm. It was then that, Mr. Masahiko Urano, who was the first director of the Gunma Cultural Foundation, thought about something that he could give to children: something fun to play with and something that would brightens their daily life despite the grim circumstances surrounding them. Jomo Karuta was the realization of Masahiko Urano's ideas. Ideas for the cards were collected from the public. Eighteen editors compiled these into 45 cards. Mr. Tatsuo Omi then drew pictures for the 45 word cards, which were later redone upon his wishes. The explanations on the back of each word card were written by Mr. Kiyoyasu Maruyama. The explanations are regularly updated as new information becomes available. After 69 years, Jomo Karuta still remains as an important part of Gunma culture.
The Gunma Cultural Association was the publisher and copyright holder. On October 28, 2013, however, all copyrights regarding Jomo Karuta were transferred to the Gunma Prefectural Government on a voluntary conveyance basis.
You can buy Jomo Karuta cards at bookstores around the country. They are also available at the prefectural facilities written below. In 1998, an English edition was published. How about playing Gunma's favorite card game this coming New Year holiday?