Culture Themed Tarot Decks

There are only a handful of things in life that I am more obsessed with compared to tarot. One of it is culture (check out my other blog: KultureKween).

Eventually, researching the interconnection between traditions and tarot, which started as a curiosity, grew into an obsession and has now turned into a life goal.

I also must admit that I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours researching tarot decks with the two cultures that I associate the most with, Indonesian and Indian.

Though there are more than a few Indian culture themed tarot decks out there, I didn’t find any that I liked nor could relate to as of now.

As for the Indonesian themed tarot deck, first of all, I was surprised that it existed to begin with. It’s called Tarot of Nusantara but it didn’t call out to me either. Instead, I found some other culture themed decks that I absolutely adore. Here they are, sorted by my liking from top to bottom*.

1. Tarot of Divine – $22

With rich, vibrant art and a keen understanding of traditional tarot archetypes, illustrator Yoshi Yoshitani infuses Tarot of the Divine with worldly insight and an intriguing selection of fables and folktales from cultures across the globe. With fables from more than forty countries, this spiritual journey is a worldly experience like no other.

This is a dream deck for a culture-geek such as myself. That combined with the price and zero shipping fee made it too easy for me to click pre-order sometime last year. I am still waiting patiently for it to arrive at my doorstep.

2. Yokai Yochi Tarot – $53

There are plenty of Japanese culture themed tarot decks in the market. From the traditional art of Ukiye to the pop-culture Manga deck but none of it spoke to me as much as Yokai Yochi did. The deck portrays ghosts, folklore, and traditional Japanese artwork. This is the second time I have mentioned this deck on my tarot deck list. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and order it.

3. The Gentle Tarot – $60

The Gentle Tarot is an indigenous-made, hand-drawn tarot deck filled with imagery influenced by life in remote Alaska. Mariza, the artist behind Mari in the Sky and The Gentle Tarot deck, is a nature-inspired illustrator, grew with ceremony and daily rituals that connect us with the elements, songs that ancestors sang with words and sounds that speak to this connection. She is inspired to share the love, honor, and respect that the planet is due.

Best part: 10% of all proceeds from the deck sale are donated to ocean and climate change research.

4. The Delta Enduring Tarot – $50

I mentioned above that I couldn’t relate much with the Indian tarot decks out there, but then I could relate so much to some of the cards from The Delta Enduring Tarot deck.

It’s an illustrated tarot deck centering on the natural beauty and struggles of life in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta Enduring Tarot pays tribute to these ebbs and flows, and to the lives of those that continue to make the deep south a more verdant, just, and enduring landscape–despite the storm of oppression always on the horizon. Egan, the artist, is an illustrator born and raised in the arms of the Mississippi Delta. They practice medicine and the esoteric arts of magic, with a predilection for the healing of communal ritual.

This deck has been sold-out, therefore very hard to find. I am not sure whether it will ever be reproduced but I surely hope so.

5. The Hoodoo Tarot – $33

Celebrating the complex American Rootwork tradition, The Hoodoo Tarot integrates esoteric and botanical knowledge from Hoodoo with the divination system of the tarot. The cards features full-color paintings by magical-realist artist Katelan Foisy and elegantly interprets the classical tarot imagery through depictions of legendary rootworkers past and present as well as important Hoodoo symbolism. In the accompanying guidebook, Tayannah Lee McQuillar provides a history of Hoodoo and its complex heritage, including its roots in multiple African and Indigenous American ethnic groups as well as its European influences.

Read the interview with the artist here.

6. The Magical Nordic Tarot – $20

I almost got this deck a few times. I am into Nordic culture and lifestyle and it’s pretty affordable (it’s the cheapest deck on this list), but knowing the majority of the deck (all the minor arcana cards) is not illustrated left a lot to be desired.

*Prices are in USD, excluding shipping.

Torii Gate Fushimi Inari Japan Miaw

Tethered to Japan

I miss Japan terribly. I have written about before. But the yearning for the land of the rising sun kept coming back, each time stronger than ever, when I can’t do anything about it. Yet.

I miss holding the sticky seaweed part of the onigiri before putting it into my mouth. I miss standing in front of the shrine, feeling both insignificant and blessed at the same time.

I miss hunting for a winter jacket in Harajuku because the one I brought wasn’t cool, thick, thin, long or basic enough.

I miss the back and forth bowing. I miss hunting interesting food and unique skin-care in the supermarket. I even miss the multi-purpose hotel spray.

And oh, don’t even let me start with the train! I miss the train, the train station and the long train rides.

I miss the familiar and tantalizing smell of coffee around the Good Day coffee shop on top of the Oshiage train station. I miss the calming voice in the speaker on the elevator, train and train station.

I even miss the tet..tet..tet.. sounding traffic light.

I miss how happy I am once I reach Japan. I miss the excitement of seeing the Torii Gates on the horizon. I miss finding kawaii stationary. I miss sitting down in the Starbucks, sipping coffee, writing my journal or simply reading a book or chit-chatting with Fafa. I miss spending hours in Kinokuniya bookstore. I miss eating rice burger for breakfast and strawberry cake for dessert.

I miss celebrating I miss celebrating New Year in Japan.

I miss roaming around Tsukiji fish market. I miss being an outsider while partaking in the culture. I miss learning and experiencing new and unusual things that are Japan.

I am tethered to Japan.

It’s the only pocket of the world that I obsess about. Which is not great since I still have the whole world to fall in love with. But as they say, the heart wants what it wants.

Sake Daruma Gyoza Gyoza

Gyoza Gyoza

I went to Gyoza Gyoza for a dinner and catch-up with Viv last Friday.

Full disclosure: I didn’t even have the courteous to wait for her before starting to put the food order once I sat down in their Melbourne Central branch. In my defense, it has been a crazy workday, and I had to skip lunch hence I was famished. I did apologize to her. Halfway eating my grilled miso rice — with both hands, making a mess of myself — no doubt making her feel second-hand embarrassment, I realized this place might just be my favorite chain restaurant in Melbourne (Hoka Hoka Bento in Jakarta and Sakae Sushi in Singapore).

They have delicious tapas-style Japanese food. From edamame, yakitori, takoyaki to miso soup. And their drinks are delicious. So are the desserts.

I have lots of good memories in Gyoza Gyoza. I have been here with Fafa, I think twice with Jik and at least one time by myself. Clearly, it’s my go-to place for comfort food. Their price range from single-digit but doesn’t mean that they are cheap because you tend to eat a lot here.

People From My Neighbourhood

I was browsing The Paperback Bookshop’s online catalog when I saw a book in pink with Japanese type of houses and a Sakura tree pictures on it. Titled People From My Neighbourhood, it’s written by Hiromi Kawakami.

SIngapore Chinatown back-alley

Hiromi Kawakami’s first English translated book was The Strange Weather in Tokyo. I bought it at the WHS at Singapore Changi International Airport and finished reading on the plane on my way back to Jakarta. It’s the book that topped my reading list in 2014. And I thought that was reason enough to get this book from the bookshop.

When the book came in the mail a week later, I kept it aside, planning to savor it once I had finished my exam. And I ended up reading and finishing it hours right after my exam.

People From My Neighbourhood was a light read as was The Strange Weather in Tokyo but it wasn’t nearly as good.

Japanese fiction, at least the ones I gravitate towards, usually are peppered with surrealism and absurdity. Which is something I expected from People From My Neighbourhood, especially since it was the second book of hers that I was reading. But I didn’t expect surrealism to be the main theme of the book.

The book, divided into 36 chapters, talks about the people who live in the narrator’s imaginary town (neighbourhood). Each chapter/story went on for a few pages. All were too short to build any connection with the characters. Nor to accept the absurdity of their personality, stories, and or situation. I didn’t understand any of the characters, let alone empathizing or liking them.

Except maybe for the middle-aged woman who runs a drinking place called The Love, who puts up the same menu every single day, which includes iced-coffee and iced-coffee only no matter the season or weather.

Another good thing from the book was the ending, the last page of the book, which I very much enjoyed. But that’s it. Nothing else. 

Only now when I am typing this I realize People From My Neighbourhood was the third Hiromi Kawakami book I have read. Last year I eagerly anticipated and utterly disappointed by The Ten Love of Mr Nishino. I only half-read it as I couldn’t continue reading after a paragraph somewhere in the middle of the book put me off so much.

Hiromi Kawakami’s novels are not my cup of tea, I know this now. The Strange Weather in Tokyo was just a beautiful one-off. Read it if you are into Japanese fiction and gratify more towards Haruki Murakami’s style of writing instead of, say Banana Yoshimoto’s.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

It has been months since I stayed past my bedtime to finish a book. The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida made me do just that yesterday. I turned off my Kindle, only leaving the epilogue part unread. There are only a few things that can match the luxury of reading in bed right after you wake up. And the last few pages of The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida would be a perfect companion to savor at that moment. Which exactly what I did right before I write this post.

I found out about The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida only a few hours before reading it while browsing through the Avid Readers event catalog online.

The first thing that caught my attention was the name “Sumida” — it must be about Japan. And as you know, something, anything to do with Japan interests me. I then went on to read the synopsis. The first paragraph said:

Miwako Sumida is dead.

That was all I needed.

I’d read the book for those two reasons alone. But then, while searching what’s the best (ie: cheapest) way I can get it, I realized that The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida was written by an Indonesian-born Singapore female writer, Clarissa Goenawan. I don’t think I have ever read any Japanese fiction written by a non-Japanese before, let alone by someone I share a certain degree of identity with. 

I feverishly waited for the workday to be over. I finished my dinner, took a shower, and told Fafa that I am retiring to bed early today. With a final click on a button that says $14.99, I entered The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.

The book was written from three different perspectives, none by Miwako Sumida. Though all of them centering around her. The story gives equal importance to the other three characters and their life.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is also layered with many sub-stories and details which add depth to the novel — from the watch that Miwako wore, the Salt Studio to the Secret Diary Zine — turning it into one delicious read.

It also took me to all the familiar places I have been yearning to go back to in Japan — from the English bookstore, Shinjuku train station, the convenience store, and the shrine. And then there was the part set in a small village below the valley, which made me pause to daydream about my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage in September next year in the middle of the night.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the book is written in a distinctive style of Japanese novels, with a bit of absurdity and melancholy, which if not overdone, can be utterly beautiful. And Clarrisa managed to do it perfectly. 

So beautifully written The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida might top my best book in 2020 chart. But that’s a decision to be made for another day, as I have just download Clarrisa’s first book, also set in Japan, titled RainBirds. 

Update: Avid Readers is hosting a free online Queer Book Club on The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida on 4th November and a conversation with the author the day after.

New Year Day in Tokyo

Happy New Year from Japan. I woke up at 4.30 AM and started replying to all the new year wishes until I fell asleep again.

Sushi 🍣 was our first meal of 2020. We went to Sushizanmai at the Tsukiji Fish Market for lunch as I was curious to check out the the restaurant chain that bought one single tuna 🐟 for $3m at the New Year’s auction at Toyosu fish market. The sushi was really good 👌🏽 and we only paid a few hundreds Yen per plate 😋.

We then walked to Ginza and later took train to Shinjuku. We stopped at Starbucks for the hot Azuki Beans Latte, I also stopped at Kinokuniya to get some English translated Japanese literature. We then dropped my last film roll to be developed in BIC Camera and stock up on beauty products at the Japanese drug store.

Our last dinner was Tebasaki chicken. We then went to the Loft at Tokyo Solamachi and went back to the hotel to pack. I had some choya and wrote a gratitude list which seemed like a good practice to do as a part of New Year rituals.

Traditional Japanese Dolls To Buy As Souvenir

Daruma

Daruma Doll is considered as one of the most popular good luck charms in Japanese culture. And similar to Mount Fuji, it is also one of the Japanese many Kami.

Kokeshi

Teru Teru Bozu

Teru Teru Bozu, also known as the sunshine doll, is a traditional icon of Japanese culture believed to have the ability to control the weather. Its’ name derives from Teru which means shiny and Bozu which monk. It reminds me of Jizo, the protector of children and travelers in Japanese culture.

Maneki Neko

Sarubobo

Sarubobo means happy monkey baby. In Japanese culture, there is an old tradition of the mothers making this Sarubobo doll and giving it to their children to ensure their good health and happiness. Sarubobo is a mascot of Takayama. I obviously bought a few as an omiyage for my loved ones back home — but I kept one for myself. It has been hanging out in our study room back in our Melbourne apartment ever since.

Kami

Tea

I am a tea lover.

I love the how the color desolates when mixed with hot water, the different effect of the smell, the taste of it and how it made me feel warm and nice on the first sip.

I love tea mugs and the ritual of pouring the tea into it.

I love the tea tradition that each country has. Like in Indonesia, they serve tea whenever you go to the other person’s house and there is teh botol, India with their milk tea and tea shop, English tea, snack time tea, Singapore teh tarik and oh, of course, China and their teas.

Meanwhile, tea ceremonies in Japan is all about respect and serving.

Vending Machine

A vending machine which sold hot Nescafe in the hospital awed me about Singapore and vending machine for the first time. With the $1 I got from Amma, one-click, and pure anticipation, the vending machine delivered what I wanted. It was served, I just had to get it slowly because it was too hot, and taa-daa I got a nice smelling heartwarming Nescafe coffee. Until today, I am able to recall this particular memory and feeling whenever I get a hot Nescafe from vending machines all over the world.

The vending machine which displays Nescafe in the hospital awed me about Singapore for the first time. With one $1 I got from Amma, one press, and a child-anticipation, it was there, I just needed to get it slowly because it’s too hot and taa daa i got a nice smelling heartwarming coffee. Till today, I am able to recreate the memory and feeling whenever I get a hot Nescafe from the vending machines all over the island.