Ukiyoe Tarot Deck                                     Review by Michele Jackson

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

This deck is done in Japanese "Ukiyoe" style. Traditional Ukiyoe images depict scenes from the "floating world," which was an area of entertainment for visiting noblemen and leaders. You can read more about this type of art here. Stuart Kaplan of US Games, sought an artist to create a Ukiyoe deck for quite some time. Through a collaborative effort with the Japanese Angel Playing Card Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Kaplan was able to commission the deck he envisioned. Although done in the Ukiyoe style, many of the Major Arcana bear a distinct similarity to the Waite-Smith. Some are different, however; the High Priestess and the Empress are bijin (beautiful women), who bear no resemblance in pose to their more traditional counterparts. They were copied from women depicted in a card deck used in a game. The Ukiyoe Chariot has no wheels, but is a litter borne by servants. I once read that only the Emperor was allowed to have a wheeled conveyance during the period that Ukiyoe art depicts, so this makes sense. Death is Emma-hoo, a Japanese God of the underworld. The children on The Sun are Sumo wrestlers and Judgment depicts "Kwannon", the Goddess of Mercy, in a cloud over the graveyard. Many of the Major Arcana depict historical or mythological Japanese personages or deities.

The art is beautiful. The colors are rich and deep and the drawings are very detailed, particularly in the patterns depicted in fabrics. The cards measure 4 7/8" X 2 1/2" . The Major Arcana have a gold outline which divides the card into three sections - a top border with the card number in English and Japanese; and a bottom border with the card name in English, The name is written in Japanese in the upper right corner of the scene. The court consists of King, Queen, Knight and Page. The suits are Swords, Wands, Cups and Pentacles. The Minors are pips, but there is symbolism worked in by means of the flowers, plants and other aspects of nature depicted in each card. These symbols are then used in the interpretation of the card. For example:

Ten of Wands
Grass grows luxuriantly under the hot summer sky. The blades bend under the weight of seeds that are almost ripe.
Divinatory meanings: Excessive pressures. Burdens. Problems soon to be resolved.
Reverse meanings: Difficulties. Intrigues. Duplicity. Treachery. Subterfuge. Some losses will occur.

The playing card symbol for each card is also worked into the image, either on a card or a pennant.

The little booklet describes how Kaplan came to commission the deck, and provides the standard description of the structure of a tarot deck. Descriptions of the symbols chosen to represent the suits are given as well as a fairly long description of the history of the Ukiyoe style. Descriptions of the cards are given, along with upright and reversed interpretations. Instructions for the Celtic Cross spread are also given.

I recommend this deck for collectors, and for anyone interested in Japanese culture or Ukiyoe art. The images are quite pleasing to the eye, and familiar enough to be read easily by anyone who can read with a Marseilles type deck.

See more cards from the Ukiyoe Tarot Deck

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Ukiyoe Tarot Deck
ISBN: 0-88079-014-8

This page is Copyright 1997 by Michele Jackson