Hajimete no Tarot by Ryuji Kagami; Artist: Ryoji Arai
Review by Diane Wilkes

Having trouble getting in touch with your inner child? The Hajimete no Tarot will have you burbling and babbling in no time flat. I have never seen a better deck to use with children than this one...and it's not only because the most inherently fearsome cards (Death, The Devil, the Tower) in the Major Arcana are fashioned in such a way as to express the archetype without causing major nightmares. Because I believe that the best way to use the tarot with children is storytelling, I screamed with delight when I saw this deck for the first time. There is simply no better deck for this purpose, in my opinion. Every image begs you to create at least ten stories--and will kick-start the imagination in every child "from one to ninety-two." (I just noticed the box reads: 10-100 years old; great minds think alike.)

I am not knocking the Whimsical or the Inner Child, but the Hajimete images look as if a very smart and creative child of six or seven drew them. This gives them a purity of vision that no polished adult-drawn deck could muster, even if the artist of the Hajimete didn't have his or her children draw these cards. A nice touch is that each card is framed in a different color--one can easily see these images hanging on a family refrigerator.

Take The Fool card as our first example. Ask any child to look at this card and he or she will naturally start a story about the Mommy who went food shopping for her family, but brought back a magic orange guitar instead of the peanut butter and jelly. What made the guitar magical? Well, it allowed her to leap from crater to crater without falling. Life was good until she came to the skyscraper on the tiptop of the mountain. What happened there? How did the magic bag she carried on a stick save her from peril? You can while away hours with this one card alone, encouraging your child's creativity and entertaining yourself, all at the same time.

The black-robed Magician has a huge green snake (spotted with polka-dots) that he wears on his head like a big, flopping hat. But wait! What's the story with the three ducklings nested on top of the snake? Despite the naїve style, there are so many clever details in the images that each little storyteller can focus on something different. Put a few of these cards together and you have story hour for any number of children.  

All the cards are charming and engaging, yet often add something in the way of opening up our understanding or conveying a specific message. The way The Lovers meet in air reminds me of the magical kiss shared by the Shining Tribe Lovers. The Chariot is a vehicle I dare not even try and describe (it resembles a blue hotdog with a cloud top), but the driver is so clearly domineering that the resulting story could well be a morality tale, a lesson many of us could learn from.

The Hanged Man's face is partially draped by his shirt, which has, like London Bridge, fallen down. Any child who has hung from the jungle gym will relate. Death wears a black cape marked with an "X" as lightning strikes the globe. Is it the end of the world? Or simply the beginning of another great story? I adore The Tower (at top), which is normally my least favorite card to see in a reading. There's no lightning (I guess Death used it up), but a leg from the cloud knocking down the Tower reminds me of the Rider-Waite-Smith imagery of the hand in the cloud, which is seen as a gift from G-d/dess. If He or She has appendages, it makes sense He/She has feet, too. Now, when I see the Tower, I'll think to myself, "It's okay, just another Kick from the Divine." I'm not sure that will mitigate the experience, but perhaps it will offer some comfort or perspective.

The World card is especially unique. Not only do we have an ouroburos instead of the traditional laurel wreath, the world dancer has two heads, one male, one female. What a wonderful way of depicting the androgynous essence of this card!

The deck comes in a case with an 80 page book, but as it is written in Japanese, I can't tell you very much about its innards. I believe the author is Ryugi Kagami  and the artist of the cards is a famous children's book illustrator, Ryoji Arai. Ryugi is also credited for the Rune Tarot and the art is quite different in that deck. The Hajimete cards are very small, and, while I would prefer the images to be slightly larger, children will be comfortable with the size and find it quite appropriate. The cardstock is a smidgen flimsy and would probably rip easily in the hands of an overactive five year old. The blue backs are reversible and in the vein of the artwork, but more spartan. I guess we can't use them for storytelling as easily.

But I have never encountered a deck that has made storytelling seem easier or more inviting. I would change the name of this deck to Hajimete YES Tarot! I recommend this deck to those who are drawn to the whimsical and for anyone who wants to use the tarot for storytelling, particularly with children. If you do decide to buy the deck for family play, I suggest you make a color copy and laminate it--the deck isn't cheap and you don't want it drooled on, chewed, or ripped.

*****************************************************************************

The author of the deck contacted me and I have updated my review to reflect the corrections provided. I was also informed that Hajimete No Tarot is Japanese for My First Tarot. The author holds a Master's Degree in Jungian Studies and has written five tarot books, including Tarot: Iconology of the Soul (in Japanese).

*****************************************************************************

Hajimete No Tarot by Kagami Ryugi
ISBN#: 4834250865

  Yes No
78 cards   X
Reversible Backs X  
Strength VIII, Justice XI   X
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) N/A N/A
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions N/A N/A
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard
 (approx.  2 1/4" x 3 3/8")                                         
X
Larger than standard                                                X
     
     

Images 2003
Review and page 2004 Diane Wilkes
On loan from the Brigit Horner Collection