Category Archives: games

Playing Concentration or Memory, Heian Style

 A primary conceit of the current age is that everything today is somehow new or original, completely different from anything of the past.

We’re in the “digital age”, and internet has changed everything. We live in democracies – everything is totally unique.

But the Heian era is proof that this is not the case.  Take a simple game that was played in the Heian era, known as “Kai-Awase”.  “Awase,” meaning “matchings” or “joinings.”  An aristocrat would have a set of 360 pairs of clam shells, which would be painted on the inside with either images, or perhaps poetry lines.

The images on the inner shells were fairly typical themes for the era – poetry, seasonal, literary, flowers, or perhaps noblemen gently weeping by a moonlit pond. Each clam shell would have an exact replica.

The game was played in the following manner. All of the shells would be placed face down on the floor. Each player would take turns flipping over the shells and attempting to find the shell’s match. Whomever found more matches would win the game. ….sound familiar?

This is pretty much the exact same game as Memory, or Concentration, a game nearly every Kindergartner plays with regular playing cards or pieces of cardboard with pictures of cartoon animals. The rules haven’t even changed.  It was played literally the exact same way over 1,100 years ago.  Feel perhaps a little closer to the Heian era? You probably mastered one of their games before learning to read.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under frivolity, games, sedentariness, the past

An Ideal Heian Gift

What could be a better holiday present than a Kai-Awase clam shell game set with Heian poets and their particular poems hand painted on the inner shells? This evening, while feasting with friends and family or watching television, spare a moment to have an inner feeling of melancholic regret – you could have given or received THIS.

Better luck next year.

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Filed under frivolity, games, poetry