167 cm (5'5.7")
Mizusawa High School Karuta Club
Class A, 4th Dan
Chihaya Ayase is the protagonist of the Chihayafuru series. She is a determined school girl who possesses remarkable hearing. She believes that by persevering in karuta, she will meet her childhood friend Arata again. Because of this, she begins a karuta club at her high school with Taichi.
Chihaya is a tall and slim teenage girl with long brown hair and brown eyes. She is considered beautiful and stunning. At school, she wears her uniform. When she isn't at school, she wears fashionable hand-me-down clothes from her sister. She also wears Daddy Bear clothes, especially when she practices karuta. When she was 12 years old, she had short hair, much like Taichi's current hair but slightly shorter with her ears exposed. She looked much like a tomboy. When she was in middle school, her hair grew longer (about shoulder length).
Chihaya is very diligent when it comes to Karuta, tomboyish, outgoing and ambitious. She is generally absent-minded or oblivious towards her surroundings, except when it comes to Karuta. Chihaya trusts others easily and can be deceived with little effort. She is seen as good-natured, easy-going, and as straightforward as her style of karuta. She often says the first thing that pops into her head, much to the dismay of those around her. She is also extremely competitive towards anyone she perceives as a rival, friend or foe, and can be very petty. Though she's pretty, everyone calls her a 'beauty in vain' because her attitude and general behavior does not match her looks. She is obsessed with "Daddy Bear". She wears clothes with the "Daddy Bear" logo and also has a "Daddy Bear" on her school bag.
Kenji Ayase is Chihaya's father. He made an album containing photos and articles regarding her success in Karuta. He is a very proud and supporting father.
Chieko Ayase is Chihaya's mother. She bought Chihaya her own hakama.
Chitose Ayase is Chihaya's older sister. Prior to meeting Arata, Chihaya's dream was for Chitose to become the number one model in Japan. Chitose is later annoyed when her younger sister's admiration towards her is replaced by her devotion to karuta. She goes on to become a moderately successful model, and is well-known in Chihaya's high school.
Chihaya and Arata Wataya are childhood friends. Chihaya was his first friend in Tokyo, and the only one that stood up to the other students (particularly Taichi) to defend him. He also introduced the thrill of Karuta to Chihaya. When Arata gives up Karuta as atonement for his grandfather's death, Chihaya (and Taichi) convince him to play Karuta again. Chihaya oscillates between affection and aggravation toward Arata. She considers him both her treasured childhood friend and distant Karuta ideal, and their meetings throughout the series are often characterized by disheartening on her part at the disparities in their ability. Though their interactions are usually short, Chihaya is shown to deeply cherish her time with Arata. The more profound, emotional facet of their relationship is paralleled to several verses in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, often ones emphasizing distance, love, or longing. Although in chapter 37, when Chihaya leaves with Kana-chan back to school, she hinted that Arata is merely her childhood friend. But in chapter 92 and at the end of the second season of the anime, Chihaya realizes that she likes Arata and that she will always like him no matter what. Arata confesses his feelings for Chihaya after losing to Harada-sensei in the Master Qualifiers. Chihaya, however, leaves him unanswered.
Chihaya and Taichi Mashima are long-time childhood friends. They lose contact when Taichi transfers to Kaimeisei Middle School, which Chihaya views at the time as a gross betrayal, though they later part on amiable terms. They reunite at Mizusawa High School, and he is convinced to start a Karuta club with Chihaya, after watching Chihaya win a B-class tournament and rise to A-class. Taichi is the most tolerant and understanding of Chihaya's whims, and is probably her staunchest supporter. Despite having a girlfriend at the start of the series, he later breaks up with her in a short, dry conversation. It is shown that he has feelings for Chihaya, yet she is oblivious towards them. It is likely that Taichi is Chihaya's closest friend and that they share one of the deepest friendships in the series. He starts to ignore her just to make her realize his affection, but every time he does, Chihaya inclines toward Arata. Though it is hinted that Chihaya may have started to develop slight feelings for Taichi in chapter 45 when she blushes, stating that her "heart is racing" and that "it's a strange feeling" when he asks her, "Wanna go to my room?" (compared to his previous rejection of permission for her to enter).
Kanade Oe is one of the members of Chihaya's karuta club. When Chihaya went to visit her family's shop, Kanade taught her the true meanings behind each of the 100 poems. She is often seen trying to school Chihaya into being more lady-like.
Shinobu Wakamiya first met Chihaya during the individual high school tournament. During their match, Shinobu fangirls over Chihaya's Daddy Bear t-shirt. Chihaya does the same over Shinobu's Snowmaru t-shirt. During the break in between the Queen matches, Chihaya visits Shinobu. Shinobu calls her by first name, indicating friendship. Chihaya gives her Snowmaru dorayaki. However, when Shinobu finds out that Chihaya missed the Queen Qualifiers because of her school field trip, Shinobu crushes the Snowmaru dorayaki.
When she was in elementary school, Chihaya's dream was for her sister to become the top model in Japan. As a child, she was very opinionated, and had a tendency to blurt out the first thing that would come to her mind. She had a strong sense of right and wrong, as when her classmates were bullying Arata Wataya, the new transfer student, Chihaya stood up for him. She even became Taichi's target and endured some of the bullying for Arata's sake.
After she met Arata and played karuta with him, he told her that she shouldn't superimpose her dreams onto other people. A dream was something she had to have, and achieve, on her own. During a school karuta tournament, Arata's glasses were stolen (by Taichi), so Chihaya took his place and won. Arata was the first one to recognize that Chihaya had natural aptitude in karuta, due to her quick reflexes, penchant for deep concentration when it counts, and near superhuman hearing that lets her hear the key syllables of the poems before her opponents can. Chihaya, Arata and Taichi become best friends. They play Karuta together. However, Taichi decides to go to a special middle school far from Chihaya's and Arata returns to Fukui because his grandfather fainted. Chihaya becomes depressed because of their separation, saying that they'll meet again if they keep playing karuta.
In middle school, Chihaya does her best to find "Karuta friends". However, her schoolmates find Karuta strange. Because of this, she joins the Track and Field Club. She tells Harada-sensei that other than being able to make friends, the bang of the gun reminds her of Karuta and that Track and Field would help her stay in shape.
The story starts with a flashback of how Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata met, and formed strong bonds of friendship. Their time was limited though, as Taichi graduated into an elevator school due to his high grades, and Arata moved back to his home town of Fukui.
Chihaya tries to create a new karuta club during her freshman year of a fairly prestigious Tokyo high school, Mizusawa High. Her reputation precedes her and she is well known as a "beauty" because of her sister's rising stardom. Unfortunately, she is also known as a "wasted beauty" because once she opens her mouth, she has a tendency to drive people away with her Karuta fanaticism and they realize she's a bit of a nut. She has few friends in high school, aside from those who knew her in middle school on the track team, and is desperately seeking the bonds from her childhood which were broken with time and distance.
Taichi returns from his escalator school because he was sick of the hour and half long commute, and Chihaya finds out they go to the same school, she wants to persuade Taichi to join and help with her karuta club if she becomes a Class-A karuta player. She succeeds and becomes a Class A karuta player by beating Yasuda and begins the Mizusawa High School Karuta Club. Taichi and her are the fist two members to begin with. They gather Kanade Oe (Kana-chan), Tsutomu Komano (Desk-kun), and Yusei Nishida (Nikkuman-kun). They become an official club after they gather Yusei, but Taeko Miyauchi requests to change the club's president to anyone other than Chihaya, which everyone agrees to Taichi becoming the club's president, most likely due to Chihaya's often over-zealous passion for karuta that would likely drive off her team members if she was in charge, and so Chihaya becomes the "Captain" of the Karuta Club.
Each member of the club has a certain element to bring to the team. Taichi, first in their class, has a photographic memory and is seen as being a "tensai" without even studying. Truth is, he is a very hard working person who is extremely intelligent who is successful in both the social and academic fields. As a former athlete, he has endurance and he is able to read people and situations. He has a lot more tact than Chihaya and is a capable leader.
Kana, whose love for everything dating back to the ancient periods of feudal Japan, adds culture and refinement to the team and the game. She understands the history behind the poems, the authors of the poems and the historical/political/romantic backdrop to the poems. She is able to teach Chihaya the true personality and "color" of each of the 100 cards, thus honing Chihaya's skills in Karuta further.
Nishida is extremely talented as a Karuta player, having a true love for the game as Chihaya does. He is strong in stressful, competitive situations, and brings his experience to the table. Having been in the world of competitive Karuta longer than the others, he is able to recognize the members of the opposing teams and describe their adversaries in detail. He is also a formidable sparring opponent for Chihaya to practice with and can give her a run for her money.
Komano, second in their class, is competitive when it comes to Taichi Mashima, who always comes first academically. He is meticulous and carefully studies the strategies behind Karuta. Both he and Kana hope to catch up to the others soon, as to not be a burden to the team. He is willing to sacrifice himself to be paired with a stronger opposing player, just to increase his team's chances of winning.
In essence, Chihaya is the "heart" of the club, and her enthusiasm and profound ability to draw people in and make true friendships binds the team together. Her goal is to take them to the national championships and each step taken together with her friends is another step closer to achieving her title of "Queen," and one step closer to Arata, who is already the "God of Karuta" in her eyes.
For reasons not immediately known to Chihaya, she discovers that Arata quit competitive karuta a few years ago--around the same time they lost touch. She even goes so far as to drag Taichi with her to Fukui to see Arata, the one she's wanted to see for so long. The two friends discover that Arata had changed, and after giving up karuta, he became socially and emotionally isolated. Chihaya is devastated by the discovery and hopes to show Arata how far she can take her dream of becoming "Queen" of karuta.
The title of the series, "Chihayafuru," are the first syllables of a Karuta card that Arata once told her was her "namesake" card, a word that means "with deep feeling." Both would always see that particular card as special, and representative of their friendship. Incidentally, it becomes Chihaya's strongest card because her hand is always drawn to it. Kana later explains its true meaning as "a red colored love/passion that never fades."
Chihaya's karuta style is based on her remarkable hearing ability and quick reflexes. She relies solely on instincts and "game-sense", thus often faulting. Though this style of Karuta was sufficient to see her through B-class, she was initially unable to shine when against A-class players. She is seen struggling to clarify and refine her karuta style throughout the series, and with each successive match, whether a win or a loss, she gained new insights on either her own or others' styles of Karuta. She is particularly awed by Shinobu's "silent karuta", and perseveres to reciprocate it.
Some have noted similarities between Chihaya's style of karuta and the current Meijin's, Hisashi Suo, as they both have the ability to discern variances in the modulation of the first syllable of multi-syllable verses, rendering them as one-syllable cards. Chihaya has 20 one-syllable cards among the hundred-card Hyakunin Isshu. Other people considered to have a similar ability are Rion Yamashiro and the former Queen, Haruka Inokuma.
After injuring her dominant right hand, Chihaya has been playing karuta with her left hand. This restriction lead her to be aware of the advantages of left-handed players against right-handed players. Her teammates are initially worried by the lack of vigor and strength in her swings, until Nishida realizes that it's not that her swings are weaker but that she no longer expels unnecessary energy. She reflects that the "truth to the soundless karuta" lies "farther along this path", implying a drastic development in Chihaya's future style of Karuta.
17. That red is the Tatsuta River / Even in the age of swift gods (Impassionate god / Chihayafuru)
22. Gust of Wind Leaves Fall Leaves Falling
Chihaya's first card. Her remarkable hearing ability allows her to hear the hard 'G' (F) in Gust (Fu), allowing her to take the card. It was her first card that she won against Arata and Shinobu.
- When tired, Chihaya sleeps with her eyes open.
- Chihaya has excellent hearing.
- Chihaya always sleeps after a match is complete.
- Chihaya can sleep while standing upright.
- She is taller than her sister.
- She was wearing a 'daddy-bear' t-shirt when battling Shinobu during the final in season one.
- She enjoys science, PE, and music class.
- Chihaya hopes to be the Queen of karuta one day.
- Most of Chihaya's outfits are 'hand-me-downs' from her sister Chitose.
- Sumire classifies Chihaya as pretty, clueless and dumb, and thinks she's every girl's enemy.
- In Chapter 45 of the manga, Taichi asks Chihaya (who had come to his house earlier than the other members), "Wanna go to my room?", which makes Chihaya blush as she reflects on his previous actions of stopping her when she wanted to go in his room.
- (To herself) - "I thought karuta was a card game people played for fun. But it's not... Karuta is a sport!" (on visiting the Shiranami Karuta Society for the first time)
- (To Arata and Taichi) - "Let's play karuta together forever!"
- (To Nishida) - "You can buy your meat buns after I beat you!"
- (To Taichi and Arata) - "As long as we keep playing, we'll meet each other again. I just know it!"
- (To herself) - "Now that I think about it, people always used to tell me that I was blind to everything but karuta."
- (To herself) - "Ever since meeting Arata, my life has been all about karuta. Always striving to become stronger and stronger, so I can one day enjoy his passion."
- (To herself) - "Taichi's Class A now. That means...he's a rival!"