The no-holds-barred world of professional poetry (no, really)

Japan has a new Karuta Queen.

Fifteen-year-old Saki Kusunoki [楠木早紀] was recently crowned 2005 Karuta Queen, the youngest person ever to grab the title for being the quickest woman at the annual poetry card game competition held at Omi Jingu [近江神宮] shrine in Otsu [大津市].

In karuta, which is played with about 100 cards each with part of a poem printed on them, two players race to find and pick up the card matching a poem read aloud. The player who collects the most cards wins.
In a key moment during the final match, Kusunoki heard one of her favorite poems read aloud. "That's my card, I mustn't miss this one," was her reaction.

Karuta can be brutal, as this essay attests. To win, Kusunoki had to know a bunch of poems and be in peak physical condition, so she could hit the cards first. Now that is a sport I can get behind!

You can see a picture of her in action here (on the left). And her comments after winning?

It's a relief. I'm really happy. I want to try my best on my [high school] entrance exams too.

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