When You Don’t Yet Have Your Karuta Callouses

I’m going to be honest with you. The other day, I got frustrated with this blog—not with you, the readers, nor with our wonderful staff, but with our numbers. Our web statistics are down from when we peaked in our readership several years ago. I had quite the big head at that time: we sometimes had thousands of unique visitors in a given day; we placed well in an aniblogger competition, surpassing really well-established blogs and ultimately losing to the one that would win the contest; and we were pretty well known among our base audience. But a lot has changed in just a few years, and sometimes I become discouraged or even upset. What can I do to get us to where we once were?

You know who I was feeling? I was feelin’ Desktomu-kun from Chihayafuru, the diminutive school-aholic who is the last member of the Mizusawa karuta club to get a win in competition. He knows what he needs to do—he’s studied diligently and practiced hard—but Desktomu just can’t seem to get a victory. He’s just not good enough yet. And to add insult to injury, fellow newcomer, Kana, gained her first win in competition while he remained winless. I’m not sure if the series showed this, but knowing Desktomu (and seeing quite a lot of myself in him), I imagine he also feels that he’s better than her, that he deserves to have won a match first.

But Desktomu’s frustrations don’t just stay within—he does something shocking and dreadful to the team. He quits on them. The continual losses plus Kana’s victories plus Porky’s unsubtle advice that Desktomu should be paired against the top player on competing teams to take a strategic loss pushes him over the edge. He walks away, forcing Mizusawa to play their next match four-on-five.

I feel this nerd’s frustration. I’ve been there, not only with this blog, but in all sorts of failures. I’ve been at the bottom, piled on by others (including myself), and it’s a horrible, life-sucking place to be, where all you can seem to do is vent your frustrations, loudly march away, and wonder, why can’t I win?

It’s Kana, coincidentally enough, that answers that question for Desktomu. After Mizusawa is able to claim victory despite their handicap, she runs after her teammate, who had been watching the end of the match, and while readjusting his obi, explains to him exactly why they are both not good enough.

Kana’s turns Desktomu’s eyes toward the uniquely-placed callouses on the feet of all their competitors. “They all have callouses because they’ve been kneeling on tatami mats for many years,” she remarks. “It only makes sense we can’t beat them.”

I’ve realized that I need to listen to Kana as well. I become envious of other sites with more active engagement and healthier numbers particularly because, like Desktomu, I don’t think they deserve it. But instead of focusing on envy, which easily becomes a voracious, irrational demon, I need to look at my own faults, search within, focus on the splinter in my eye, and work on my weaknesses. In my specific case, there are lots of things I can do, but prime among them is to become a stronger writer. I’m better than I once was, but the better I become, the more I realize how far I have to go to become the writer I want to be, one who engages you in a fervent and intelligent way.

And so, here I stand sit, developing my typing callouses just as Desktomu and Kana build their own for karuta. And in doing so, I’m learning the value of hard work and forgetting about the accomplishments of others, which have nothing to do with me in the end.

What about you? Are there any “callouses” you’re building? Any that you need to build?

** I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention the beautiful scene of reinstatement at the end of episode ten. By running after Desktomu and then knelling down and readjusting his obi, Kana serves her teammate and reminds him graciously that he is still part of their team, before explaining about the callouses. Overwhelmed, Desktomu finally repents and congratulates Kana on her victory, bringing her to tears. After that, the response to his actual ask for reinstatement to the rest of the team is a given.

Chihayafuru is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

6 thoughts on “When You Don’t Yet Have Your Karuta Callouses”

  1. Just wanted to let you know that this website matters to me, a lot. I almost started crying upon first finding it, because WOW, Christian anime fans? coolest thing ever! why had I never found this sooner? Please know that no matter what statistics say what you’re doing here really, really helps people.


  2. Hey Charles. Sorry that I haven’t been as active as I was in the summer. With that said, I still smile with every email, Facebook, and Twitter updates that I see from BTT. Here’s what I feel compelled to share this morning:

    But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


  3. A poignant post, and it’s a reflection of your dedication and how well-suited you are to do this job that you can share your thoughts in the context of the perfect anime example. Blogging can feel thankless, and creating community is a challenge in whatever arena one attempts it. Glad to hear that you’re finding inspiration to continue!


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