Kaiawase-19th Century Japanese Game

Kai awase-19th Century Japanese Game

This time I am researching about later 19th century Asian art History and especially about old Japanese game’s art. This week I will research about the Japanese Kaiawase game.And you can find some basic informations in this post.I will try to publish a new post about the making of a haiwase piece later this week.

The meaning

        “Kai” meaning “shell” and “awase” meaning “joining” or “matching “but

The Correct meaning from my point of view should be joining-shells since you have to join the shells and matching them perfectly.

What is Kaiawase?

A shell-matching game played originally by nobles in the Heian period.

The point

The point of this game is to find shells with the same picture inside.

The gameplay

 The matching half of the design was painted on other half shells and they were turned over one by one by players competing to match pairs. A poem or miniature painting was added inside each shell in order to facilitate matching, with the first part of a 32-syllable poem written on one half and the latter part written on its mate, while both halves were detailed with an identical motif.

A full set of traditional kai awase shells contained 360 pairs of shells Players sat around hundreds of clamshells randomly faced-down on tatami mats and sought for a right pair, like the card game Concentration. After the game, the shells were put away into octagonal box of elaborate work of painting on gold leaf called a “kaioke.”


“Kai-awase” was originally played among the noblewomen in Kyoto in the 9th century, later it had spread itself into women from the upper-class Throughout the feudal age, a set of kaiawase was an item to be included in the bride’s household. Each shell only matches perfectly with the other half-> game symbolized a couple to be met for a happy marriage. The size of clamshells was carefully chosen to fit in the palms of women’s hands.




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