Derakkusu Ban Hihou Tarot - Kazumi Niikura
Review by Diane Wilkes
My beloved Aunt Sophia was a woman drawn to grace and beauty. She was extremely fashionable (when Womens' Wear Daily, her bible, came to Philadelphia looking for chic, they found her traversing the Center City streets and immediately snapped and published her picture on their hallowed pages).
I often hear her voice in my head, especially in the funky world of tarot. When I first saw the images of the Derakkusu Ban Hihou Tarot at the 1999 World Tarot Congress, I heard her say, quite distinctly, "I don't understand this tarot thing, Diane, but these cards are stunning." I, too, was taken with the beauty of this deck and wanted to buy it immediately. Laurie Amato often has Japanese decks for sale, but didn't have this one in stock at the time, if memory serves.
At the ATA 2000 Conference in Albany this year, Laurie surprised me with this deck. I couldn't believe that a) she remembered how taken I was with the deck from the year before and b) that she was gifting me with such a lovely and expensive deck.
Well, time had not dulled my memory--the Derakkusu Ban Hihou Tarot (English translation: "gorgeous version of the secret method of Tarot") is aptly named. Despite my state of excitement (also known as "Conference Fever"), I kept returning to this deck to enjoy the sensual pleasure of touching these creamy ivory and black images. The reader in me knew I'd never use these cards for readings, but the aesthete in me didn't give a sou.
Naturally, I'm frustrated that I can't read the accompanying 159 page book that is written in Japanese. But I can garner some information from the images. Judgement shows an angel overlooking a Grecian temple of some kind (and The Tower depicts a similar building being shattered by lightning). The Wheel of Fortune contains an image of the Moirae circling a spinning wheel. The Moon and The Sun cards reflect Diana and Apollo (they are identified by Rome with the Greek Olympians). The Lovers look like they are about to be pierced by Eros' arrow. Other Major Arcana cards look similarly connected to Greek and Roman mythology. I really wish I could get this book translated in order to discover the other card-to-myth correspondences.
The court cards are also "stunning." The Knight of Cups is a dreamy Mer-Man. The Page of Cups looks like he's about to get swimmingly drunk--whether on libation or love, I can't say. All of the courts are dressed in flowing attire. Womens' Wear Daily wouldn't hesitate to put any of them in their publication.
The pips are the only mundane thing about the deck: look at the Seven of Swords. The Japanese generally don't illustrate their pip cards, and I suspect the artist found them dull--he or she didn't even try to make them as interesting as the rest of the deck. Even the Aces--which Japanese artists usually go to town on--are rather blah.
Based on the mythical correspondences, I believe that using the Majors of this deck could make for powerful readings. The backs are reversible, so one could even shuffle.
I can't tell you how appealing I find this deck, despite desperately trying to do just that in this review. I'm sure part of the attraction is sentimental--I think of it as my Aunt Sophia deck. But I think any tarot enthusiast who loves beautiful art would find the "gorgeous version of the secret method of Tarot" just that--gorgeous.
You can see more images from the deck here.
You can order this deck through Laurie Amato or Sasuga (a great resource for Japanese decks).
Review and page © 2000 Diane Wilkes