Creating Sumo Card

3 minute read Published:

Sumo Card Development Blog 1

(It should be noted that development of Sumo Card began on October 18, 2016. Development took a break from November to Febraury and resumed around the beginning of March 2017. These articles are a reflection on the development to date.)


After trying several Japanese vocabulary learning programs, I found many of them useful enough but none of them had exactly what I was looking for. After using several products over the course of a few years, I decided that I wanted to develop one that would be a little more like a game. I’ve always been a big fan of Sumo, it is a little exciting and provides a great avenue to supplement Japanese learning, so I decided to model this “learning game” after the ranking system of Sumo.

Game Design

Learning random words in random order can be ok, but, I wanted a system that would allow me to learn targeted words from some external source. For example, if I was learning the song 「愛の愛の星」 by The Brilliant Green I wouldn’t really have a way to put the words in a system and study on multiple devices with ease.

The basic concept is, you create “Subscription Lists” that contain words you want to learn. These words can be added to an active queue and you are quizzed with the frequency of the word based on your “rank”.

The Ranks:

Rank Rank Title Question Type Promotion Criteria
十両 jyuryo Answer is given Once eight questions have been answered you are promoted
前頭 maegashira Multiple choice Answering greater than 5 / 8 questions
小結 komusubi Free Response Answering greater than 5 / 8 results in promotion, any less and demotion occurs
関脇 sekiwake Free Response Answering greater than 6 / 8 in two consecutive quizzes results in promotion, any less and demotion occurs
大関 ozeki Free Response Ozeki have special promotion and demotion privileges. Ozeki words must be answered seven or eight times correctly to be considered for promotion to Yokozuna. If an Ozeki word is answered less than 5 times correctly, the word is Kadoban and the word must be correctly answered greater than 5 times during the next quiz or else demotion will occur. Promotion to Yokozuna occurs if the word is answered 7 or 8 times correctly twice in a row.
横綱 yokozuna Free Response Yokozuna words have achieved the highest rank. As a result, they can be neither promoted or demoted.

The Questions:

Quizzes will be sets of 10 words asked in three combinations (3 questions per word unless a word is kana only)

  • Q:Kanji A:Kana
  • Q:Kana A: Kanji
  • Q:English A: Kanji (or Kana if kana only)

The ‘Sets’

Each run of words is eight questions long. The promotions are based on the results after each eight questions run.


Below is a list of ‘items’ that I would like in the game. Some of them are reserved for future use.

Item Name Effect
Mt. Fuji Changes Free Response question to Multiple Choice
Silver Star Reserved for future use
Gold Star Reserved for future use
Shinkansen Starts quiz over
Zenshou yuusho Skip entire quiz (issued when getting to yokozuna without an incorrect response)

Other notes

  • The minimum number of available words for a quiz is 10
  • Time intervals for the next time a word is asked is halved if the word is answered incorrectly

Next time I’ll discuss language choice and some basic design decisions.