Hikone Carom

Hikone Carom

Beware! This simple and sociable game can be addictive

place Area: Hikone access_time Published: 2020.06.25

Carom is a game that’s been popular in Hikone since the Meiji period. Although children enjoy playing it, the combination of physical coordination and game strategy makes it very engrossing for adults too. The sudden reversals that result from player errors create a most stimulating atmosphere of tension. Carom can be played by two or four participants, so it’s a very flexible and convivial game, an ideal entertainment for any venue where people gather socially. Since the rules are easily understood, there’s no language barrier with carom. Its prototype is said to have emerged about 800 years ago, around the 12th or 13th century, in Egypt and Ethiopia. There are many similar games around the world. The game has such a distinguished history that English billiards is thought to have originated from carom. Regarding its introduction to Japan, one theory has it that missionaries brought it to Japan during the Meiji period, but this isn’t known for sure. It seems to have come to Hikone at that time. It spread nationwide during the early Showa period but was soon forgotten in other areas. However, it remained popular in Hikone. This is because there was a manufacturer of carom boards in Hikone and since everyone had the opportunity to enjoy it at the children’s Jizo Festival and so on, it was handed down through the generations. Carom boards were made in Hikone by the craftsmen who make Hikone butsudan. Carom became a rarity outside of Hikone, but it’s recently been featured on television, and it’s spreading again nationwide. There’s even a national carom tournament. When you’re in Ōmi, take the opportunity to get acquainted with carom and fully experience its fun and sophistication.

How to play Hikone Carom

1. Remember the names

The carom board and pieces

Slightly larger than the striker and puck.

○There are two each for red and green.

There are 12 each for red and green.

2. The purpose of the game

To play the game, you flick the striker with your finger to hit the pucks or jack. You aim to knock the pucks with the same color as your striker into the pockets. If you pocket the jack after all your pucks are in, you win the game.

3. Setting up the board

Place the jack at the jack spot in the centre of the board. Arrange the red and green pucks alternately around the centre circle.

4. Shooting

Keeping your hand still, flick the striker with one or two fingers of either hand. You can’t move the board to a convenient direction for easy shooting, nor can you stand up and move outside your area.

5. Shooting positions

The first shot is made from the tee spot. If there’s a piece on the tee spot at that time, shoot from the closest point to the centre of the tee spot. If you’re playing doubles, be careful not to hit pucks inside your area.
From the second shot, place the striker on your area line to shoot. You can’t place it on the palm of your hand to shoot.
Don’t put the striker on the board until your turn comes. Keep it out of the way until it’s your turn.

6. Deciding the order of play

The players compete at rock-paper-scissors and the winner takes the red striker and goes first. With two players, the players alternate. With four players, the players play in clockwise order.

7. Start of play

Aim well so that your pucks fall into the pockets. With your first shot, it doesn’t matter whether you hit one of your pucks or the opponent’s puck. After shooting, don’t touch the pieces until the puck and striker has completely stopped moving. If the pucks are standing upright or are overlapping, the game continues as it is.

8. Special rules for doubles

In doubles games, there are pucks that you can’t shoot at.
You can’t shoot at any pucks or a jack inside your area line. However, if any part of the piece is over the area line, you can shoot at it.
If you accidently hit a forbidden puck, your opponent returns the puck to its original position.

9. How to get a puck out of your own area

There are three ways;

  1. Your partner can shoot at it directly, so leave it to them.
  2. You can hit it indirectly by shooting at any other piece to achieve a knock-on effect.
  3. You can bounce your striker off any of the walls except in your own area to hit it.

When playing singles, you can aim directly at all pucks and the jack anywhere on the board.

10. Alternating players

If you pocket one of your pucks, you have the right to shoot again. (Even if you pocket two or more pucks at the same time, you can only shoot once.) Also, if you pocket your opponent’s puck at the same time as one of your pucks, you can continue to shoot. However, the opponent’s puck is left in the pocket. If you fail to pocket a puck, the next player starts their turn. If you make a mistake that incurs a penalty, return the specified number of already pocketed pucks to the jack spot and the next player starts their turn. If there are other pieces on the jack spot, stack them up. If are no pucks in the pockets to return, when one becomes available, return it to the jack spot.

11. Penalties

A. If you pocket your striker, place one of your pocketed pucks on the jack spot.
B. If you pocket the jack without first pocketing all of your pucks, place five of your pocketed pucks on the jack spot with the jack on top of them.
C. When pieces fly off the board
 a. If your striker flies off the board, place one of your pocketed pucks on the jack spot.
 b. If the jack flies off the board, place five of your pocketed pucks on the jack spot with the jack on top of them.
D. If you pocket a puck at the same time as A, B, or C
  Since it’s a foul, add one of your pocketed pucks to each of the penalties.
E. If you pocket an opponent’s puck at the same time as A, B, or C
  The opponent’s puck is left in the pocket.

12. Other penalties

A. If you have one puck left and you pocket the jack at the same time as the puck, it’s a foul. (The penalty is to return the puck with the five-puck penalty for pocketing the jack. The jack is placed on top.)
B. If you’ve pocketed all of your pucks and you pocket the jack and an opponent’s puck at the same time, it’s not a foul. The game ends at that point.
C. If an obvious foul is committed, that play is deemed invalid, and if you pocketed a puck, the puck is returned to the jack spot. As a penalty, return one puck to the jack spot.
D. There’s no penalty if a puck flies off the board. Return the puck (of either colour) to the jack spot. If you pocketed one of your pucks with that play, you can continue your turn.
E. When returning your own puck to the jack spot at the same time as an opponent’s puck, place your puck on top of your opponent’s puck.
F. If you incur a penalty involving the jack, put the jack on top.

13. Deciding the winner

After pocketing all of your pucks (12), if you pocket the jack you win the game.