National

In about-face, Kagawa now says noodle-themed playing cards inspired by love, not sexism

Kyodo

A prefecture known udon wheat flour noodles said Tuesday it has decided to keep a contentious poem printed on a promotional playing card after concluding it manifests the author’s love for his wife and the smooth white noodles, and that it is not intended to offend women.

” ‘Strong koshi, fair-skinned, chubby, just like my wife’ is a poem intended to express how the author loves his wife, just like he loves udon, and such sentiment was linked with the characteristics of the noodles,” Kagawa Prefecture said, referring to the conclusion drawn by a committee comprising prefectural officials and experts.

Koshi is Japanese for “springiness,” but it can also be taken as referring to a person’s hips.

Kagawa Prefecture, which takes pride in its famous Sanuki udon, received a complaint on Dec. 14 that one of the 46 poems inscribed on Udon Karuta playing cards was inappropriate and could tarnish the image of udon.

Karuta are Japanese playing cards. A game involving cards with poems on them is traditionally played during the New Year’s holidays.

The government of Kagawa had prepared 2,000 sets of the cards for sale, hoping they would be used in households during the holidays to start the custom of eating udon at the beginning of the year.

Following the complaint, the prefecture announced the following day it planned to halt sales of the cards, which had just begun, and said the five-member committee that screened the poems would re-examine the poem in question.

The prefecture said Tuesday all five members agreed on the innocuous nature of the poem, written in traditional haiku form, thus giving a green light to the resumption of sales.

It also resumed offering free downloads of the cards on a website advertising toshiake (start of the year) udon on Tuesday.

A set of the cards are available for ¥1,620 at Takamatsu airport.

Udon is not only the signature product of Kagawa, but something very special to the prefecture. During the Milan Expo earlier this year, Gov. Keizo Hamada told an event that udon is “Kagawa’s soul food, just like pasta for Italy.”

Local consumption of the noodles is twice the national average, and a local newspaper has an independent udon section on its website, along with weather, sports and other sections.

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