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E-awase (絵合, painting contest) was a pastime popular among Japanese nobles during the Kamakura period,[1] although its history dates back to the Heian.[2]

In an e-awase contest, participants were divided into two teams,[1] and created paintings on a predetermined topic, which were then judged by their peers,[3] as in the older uta-awase poetry contests.[4] It was a popular entertainment at parties and social gatherings.[5] An eawase contest of this type appears in The Tale of Genji, forming the central theme of chapter 17.[6]

An alternative version of the picture contest was simpler, with players matching or associating pre-painted images.[7] This was a development of an older game known as kai-awase (貝合 "shell matching"). Matching scenes would be painted on the inner surfaces of a number of clam shells; these would then be spread on the floor, image side down, and turned over by competitors who would attempt to match the corresponding images.[8]


  1. ^ a b Louis Frédéric (2002). Japan Encyclopedia. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  2. ^ Allen Hockley; Koryūsai Isoda (2003). The Prints of Isoda Koryūsai: Floating World Culture and Its Consumers in Eighteenth-century Japan. University of Washington Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-295-98301-1. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  3. ^ Samuel L. Leiter (2002). A Kabuki Reader: History and Performance. M.E. Sharpe. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-7656-0704-1. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  4. ^ Miyeko Murase; New York Public Library (1986). Tales of Japan: scrolls and prints from the New York Public Library. Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-19-504020-3. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  5. ^ Jacob Raz (1983). Audience and Actors: A Study of Their Interaction in the Japanese Traditional Theatre. Brill Archive. p. 67. ISBN 978-90-04-06886-5. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  6. ^ Murasaki Shikibu (24 April 2003). The Tale of Genji. Penguin Books Limited. p. 561. ISBN 978-0-14-192796-1. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  7. ^ Mary Flanagan (30 September 2009). Critical Play: Radical Game Design. MIT Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-262-06268-8. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  8. ^ Asahi Shinbunsha (1996). Japan quarterly. Asahi Shimbun. p. 73. Retrieved 29 May 2012.