Monoawase (物合)

Monoawase ("mono" meaning things and "awase" meaning comparison) was a game that became most popular in the Heian period.

It was played by splitting participants into teams of right and left, having them bring items of a subject to be compared against each other between the teams in several rounds, and having a judge determine which team won the game at the end.

Among the most well-known games of monoawase were utaawase (poetry match), eawase (picture match), and kaiawase (shell match), as well as toriawase (bird match) (also known as tokei [cockfight]), hanaawase (flower match) (also known as hanaikusa [flower battle]), kotoriawase (bird bench show), mushiawase (insect match), senzaiawase (plant match), ogiawase (fan match), and biwaawase (lute match). As seasonal events, shobu-no-neawase (iris root match), kikuawase (chrysanthemum match), and kobaiawase (red-blossomed plum match) were also played.

How to Play

First, members are assigned for right and left teams.

Most of the time, major nobles, who were sponsors of each team, selected those skilled in a specific field from their relatives, vassals, and related parties. Since even minor nobles would be able to have the honor of being selected if they were skilled at waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables), especially utaawase, it is said that some of the people of low birth were desperate to come up with good poems, literally for their lives.

The left team was dressed in warm colors, ranging from purple to orange at the time, and in big events, the designs of costumes of assistant menowarawa (girls) and of writing paper for wrapping items were also unified in colors ranging from reddish purple to red. The right team was dressed in cold colors, ranging from yellow to bluish purple at the time, and competed in elaborate design as well.

The selection of judges was a most delicate process, which would select veterans who not only had an eye for beauty but also had skills in writing, waka, and calligraphy, which was necessary for writing on judging paper. Also selected was a 'kazusashi' who used kushi (skewer) to record the number of wins and losses by each team in several rounds.

In addition, there were cases where 'to,' who was in charge of commentary and direction for their team, and 'nennin,' whose job was to support their team, were selected.

[Original Japanese]