My “Floating World” Tarot Project

I have admired the Ukiyo-e Tarot by Koji Furuta for many years. It’s a beautiful Marseilles-based tarot with original images inspired by Japanese woodblock prints. The Major Arcana and court cards (like the Queen of Cups) depict scenes from pre-20th century Japanese life: royalty, actors, or geisha. This is the “fleeting, floating world” of Ukiyo-e prints. The “pips” (as cards ace through ten of each suit are called) feature sake cups, coins, samurai swords, and wands.


My love of Japanese woodblock prints began when I was a child. My grandmother admired and collected these beautiful works of art. She taught me the styles of the masters: Utamaro’s courtesan paintings, Hokusai, Hiroshige. She even gave me one of her treasures: a beautiful book of Ukiyo-e art with lots of color plates.


For these reasons, the Ukiyo-e Tarot has been on my “wishlist” for years. Unfortunately, it went out-of-print before I could buy a copy. Used decks became outrageously expensive as others admired it too!  I began to imagine creating my own Ukiyo-e style tarot. Like the Furuta/Kaplan deck, it would feature un-illustrated minors with figures on the Major Arcana and court cards.  I’m not a professional artist, but love to draw. Each card contains images borrowed from famous woodblock prints or 19th century Japanese photos.


These are the first five sketches of minor arcana cards: Ace of Cups, Ace of Swords, Two of Swords, Three of Swords, and Four of Swords. I tested out colors on one of the sketches (top) with pastel pencils.


I’ll post again as I have “finished” cards.  I’d love to hear what you think!


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4 Responses to My “Floating World” Tarot Project

  1. hfmudd says:

    3 of your suits are martial art weapons. Swords , Staff’s = wands & Shurikens = pentacles, leaving you with cups that represented with Koi “ Fish = water = Cup’s” if that makes since.

  2. Interesting about the shurikens being pentacles. I don’t know much about martial arts weapons. Very helpful insight. Thanks!

  3. jameswells says:

    U.S. Games is re-publishing the Ukiyo-e Tarot. Hooray!

    • Yes, I was thrilled to get a copy! It also seems to have brought the price of the older versions down to a more reasonable level. Thanks for letting me know – I don’t think they are selling any on Amazon. It’s almost a secret.

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