Arata Wataya (綿谷新 Wataya Arata) is a student from Fukui who once transferred to Chihaya Ayase's elementary school as a child. The grandson of a master karuta player, Arata inspired Chihaya to take up karuta by telling her that he thinks she has a talent for it.
He had difficulty fitting in because of his Fukui dialect and his family's poverty. His passion for karuta and his playing style are inspired by his grandfather, a Meijin (master).
Arata has spiky black hair. He has almond-shaped blue eyes, reminiscent of water, which are covered with thin round glasses. As a child, Arata's hair was shorter and he wore a white shirt with blue sleeves and the text "World Sports 4". His older outfit consists of a grey t-shirt under a black hoodie with the letters "ER" over on the right side of his chest, simple jeans light, and red sneakers.
Arata is a kind, but quiet person who loves to play karuta. He is very caring, serious and lacks some confidence. However, he is not meek. Arata is also very intelligent, and is excellent when it comes to memorization, as seen when he quickly committed to memory the 200 stops on his paper route. When it comes to karuta, he practices very hard and is very passionate about his dream on being the Meijin of karuta one day. Arata is also shy sometimes, and very thoughtful.
Arata's Grandfather, Hajime Wataya, taught him how to play karuta. They had a very strong bond. Arata had to move back to Fukui after he graduated from elementary school to take care of him. On the day he achieved Class-A in karuta, his grandfather passed away. He became so upset that he quit Karuta, until the day Chihaya and Taichi come to meet him.
Chihaya and Arata are childhood friends. Arata developed a close bond with her during their childhood, as Chihaya was the first person to befriend him at school. Chihaya holds great admiration for Arata, despite their distance, and has called him a 'Karuta God'. One day when Chihaya called him, he answered her question about how she could get stronger in karuta. He tells her that whenever he plays or practice, he always thinks of their first match when they were still in elementary school.
After losing to Harada-sensei during the qualifiers, he confesses his love for Chihaya. However, she hasn't given an answer.
Taichi is Arata's other childhood friend. Taichi was among the children who teased him in school, but ever since they both competed in the elementary school karuta tournament, they became friends. In the past, Taichi and Arata felt as though they had to "compete" for Chihaya . However, they decided that Chihaya belongs to neither. Arata often gives advice to Taichi concerning karuta, and has considerably more contact with him than with Chihaya.
She and Arata are childhood acquaintances, though not necessarily friends. She was always matched against him in fourth and fifth grade, and never won against him.
Arata was taught karuta by his grandfather, Hajime Wataya. When he moved to Chihaya and Taichi's elementary school, he used to be teased and bullied for wearing the same clothes almost everyday. This caused Chihaya to notice him and eventually befriend him. Taichi then challenged him to a Karuta match and cheated by stealing his glasses. Chihaya replaced Arata and won, after which she went to look for his glasses. While she was searching, Taichi confessed that he stole the glasses and gave them back to Arata. They later went to search for Chihaya, and then they all became good friends. They played Karuta matches together until Arata had to return to Fukui. They promised that karuta would keep them together. A few years later, while Arata made it to Class A in karuta, his grandfather passed away. He was so upset by his death that he vowed to never play Karuta again.
As children, Arata, Taichi and Chihaya forged a strong bond forming their first competetitve team "Chihayafuru." When Chihaya and Taichi found out Arata had to move back home to Fukui, they gave him a happy send off, promising to keep in touch and swearing to see one another again in competetive karuta (the nationals).
After moving, Arata had difficult times ahead of him, because of his grandfather's progressively debilitating health, that he never told his two friends. Though he missed them both, he was devoted to and continued to receive training from his grandfather. He carries deep guilt for his grandfather's death, as that was a day he was supposed to watch him but his grandfather insisted that he attend the local competition to become an "A rank" player. Subsequent to his grandfather's death, Arata swears off karuta entirely, and falls out of touch with his friends.
When Chihaya finds out that Arata will never play karuta again, she desperately tries to reforge a bond with him, using karuta. She goes so far as to drag Taichi with her to Fukui and is flatly, and rudely dismissed, much to her shock.
Arata breaks his vow that he won't play karuta anymore after he reunites with Chihaya and Taichi. He chases Chihaya's and Taichi's train on his bike while having tears in his eyes till he gets tired and can't chase the train anymore. Meanwhile, Chihaya tells Taichi that she's glad they came to Fukui to meet Arata; that he loves and won't quit playing karuta. He is later seen playing karuta by himself in a dark room.
Chihaya is then determined to form her own karuta club in school, so she can fulfill her dream of going to the nationals and becoming "Queen" of karuta. When Arata texts Taichi to tell Chihaya "happy birthday" for him, Chihaya's determination to rekindle their friendship increases tenfold. Almost daily, she starts to text Arata about how she recruited members, who the members of her club are, the difficulties they faced and even her random thoughts on the weather and continued to do so despite Arata never responding. Taichi and Chihaya take their newly formed team to the national championship. Chihaya messages Arata to come watch.
When Arata sees Chihaya and Taichi at the nationals, he completes his atonement for his grandfather's death and decides for himself what he wants to do from there. He resolves to play competitive karuta once again and fulfill his childhood promise to meet Chihaya and Taichi as their opponent.
Many have noted Arata's style of playing as being similar to that of his grandfather's, Hajime Wataya: "troublesome". When Arata plays, he plays to win, evidenced by the somewhat unscrupulous method he uses, "sweeping", in which he knocks several cards all at once instead of aiming for simply one. Some have said that his sadism rivals that of even Akihito Sudō.
Nishida has observed that Arata's karuta is fearsome not only because of his ability to "superaccelerate", but also because of how relaxed he is during a match. Chihaya, for this, has often likened his karuta to being submerged in water, which could relate to his moving at his own pace. She also considers his karuta the embodiment of the titular poetic epithet "Chihayaburu", reflected in the manga as the image of a spinning top, which holds steady, repels all external force and appears deceptively still until closer inspection reveals its intensity and narrowness of focus.
Arata is considered a particularly gifted karuta player, and some believe he will be the one to finally overthrow the reigning Meijin, Hisashi Suo.
- The name Arata means "fresh, new".
- Arata has been wearing glasses since he was 3 years old.
- When he was a kid, he would even dream that he is playing karuta sometimes, keeping his parents awake.
- Arata was afraid of big dogs as a child.
- For Chihaya Ayase, the image of water becomes associated with Arata's style of karuta.
- Arata was taught karuta by his grandfather.
- Arata enjoyed math, calligraphy, and cooking classes when he was in elementary school.
- Arata thought that Taichi Mashima and Chihaya were dating since he had been gone for so long, explaining why he had been giving Taichi messages to give to Chihaya rather than giving them to her himself. He is obviously relieved when Taichi tells him otherwise.
- Arata currently owns a hot pink phone because he asked his mom if she could do him a favor and buy one. She thought hot pink was a cute color.
- Arata's karuta play style is the same as his grandfather's.
- When it comes to female "mature" content, Arata is pretty innocent. At one point, he super-imposed Chihaya's face onto her sister's body when he saw the latter on the cover of a swimsuit magazine. He turned beet-red and began coughing shortly after.
- Arata and his manager don't always see eye to eye because the manager is "strange". However, they never seem to fight.
- A Junior High School classmate of Arata's teased him at one point about his grandfather was the reason he couldn't practice or play to reach class A in karuta. Arata stood up from his seat and punched the boy.
- In Episode 14, he was shown crying because his grandfather didn't recognize the karuta cards he showed to him, nor even knew what a karuta card was.
- Arata is afraid to speak in front of many people.
- Young Arata's voice actor is a woman.
- Arata works a part-time job in a bookstore as a clerk in Fukui, called Katsugi Books, where he occasionally ganders at Chitose Ayase's photos on magazine covers due to her resemblence to Chihaya.
- Arata says that he is in love with Chihaya, and everyone is shocked by hearing it. Taichi was not around at the time.
- Harada sensei calls him "Megane-kun".
- Arata won 2nd place when publishing company Kodansha ran a popularity poll for their bespectacled charmers to discover who among their manga publications would be chosen as the most popular. [source]
- He also won in a poll for the Top 3 Most Popular guy to receive a Honmei Choco on Valentines Day held by yahoo japan. [source]
- The pairing Chihaya x Arata won top placer and gained 68,000+ votes when Suetsugu-sensei, Yahoo Japan and Kodansha held a poll on which couple to be on the limited colored cover of Vol. 25 of the manga Chihayafuru. [source]
- His age is officially 18 years old as of Chapter 193.
- (To Chihaya) "You can't call that a dream. Your dream should be about yourself, don't take someone else's."
- (To Chihaya) "The next time we meet, it will be in a match."
- (To Taichi) "You are a coward." (on Taichi stealing his glasses)
- (To Chihaya) "I wouldn't show mercy even if I was playing a five year old!"
- (To himself) "If there really was a karuta god, he would look like Grandpa!"
- (To Chihaya) "You know, whether it's an official match or a practice match, I always go back to that room when I'm playing. Where I was never scared no matter who came in... Where I was always happy, having fun, and wishing it'd never end. Back when you and I played in that old apartment..."
- Chapter 119 Page 21