Sumi Playing Cards

Card Experiment‘s new project is Asian themed like their previous Realms project. This time they looked towards Japan for inspiration and personally I am quite impressed. The project is called Sumi Playing Cards and it is inspired by traditional Japanese tattoo designs and illustrated by ToK, a Japanese graphic designer and illustrator based in Kanagawa, Japan. You might have seen these in pop culture of Japanese Yakuza spotting such elaborate tattoos on their arms, backs and their chest. They always looked so impressive and has a certain flow in how they connect with each other that it feels like a seamless drawing on a canvas unlike in western tattoo where a person can just tattoo a design on its own on certain part of the body.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo is also Irezumi in Japanese but usually written in Chinese characters. There are different ways of writing it and each has a different meaning. 入れ墨 or 入墨 is one such way or writing it and it literally means insert ink. So how does Sumi became the name of this project instead? It is explained on the project page that Sumi means 墨 which is ink. So that is how the name Sumi is chosen as the project name.

Coming back to Irezumi, it is usually images of Gods, Goddesses and mythological creatures being tattooed on the body and this is the essence of what this project is trying to capture. Because this project has received quite a huge amount of funds due to its appeal and also because this article came out so late, every stretch goal has been unlocked. The standard edition is the Artist edition and two other editions, Grandmaster and Bicycle, have been unlocked as well. Other goals unlocked are customised foil sticker seals and crushed Bee stock for Sumi Bicycle edition.

I shall waste no more time and just show you pictures from the project page itself. I shall start with the Jacks. The characters on Jack face cards are from kabuki which is a traditional Japanese dance drama.

  • Jack of Spades – Danshichi Korobei (団七九郎兵衛)
  • Jack of Clubs – Tenjiku Tokubei (天竺徳兵衛)
  • Jack of Diamonds – Kintarō (金太郎)
  • Jack of Hearts –


Queens are Goddess and Japanese myth and Buddhism.

  • Queen of Spades – Zanami-no-Mikoto (伊弉弥), the goddess of death
  • Queen of Clubs – Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大御神), the nature goddess
  • Queen of Diamonds – Benzaiten (弁才天), the goddess of good fortune
  • Queen of Heards – Kisshōten (吉祥天), the goddess of beauty


Lastly, the kings are four of the five great wisdom kings:

  • King of Spades – Vajrayaksa (金剛夜叉明王),  “The Devourer of Demons” – Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amoghasiddhi
  • King of Clubs – Kuṇḍali Vidyarāja (軍茶利明王), “The Dispenser of Heavenly Nectar” – Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Ratnasambhava
  • King of Hearts – Yamantaka (大威徳明王), “The Defeater of Death” – Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amitābha
  • King of Diamonds – Trailokyavijaya (降三世明王), “The Conqueror of The Three Planes” – Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Akshobhya

There is one king which is not represented in the cards and that is Acala (不動明王), “The Immovable One” – Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Mahavairocana.


The Aces are used to depict mythical creatures in Japanese folk lore.

  • Ace of Spades – Dragon (龍), lightning & sakura
  • Ace of Clubs – Lion/shishi (唐獅子), smoke & peony
  • Ace pf Diamonds – Phoenix (鳳凰), fire & lotus
  • Ace of Hearts – Carp (鯉), water & maple leaf

Sumi Aces

The above images are cards from the Artist edition and I suspect for the Bicycle edition as well. I shall show you images from the Grandmaster edition.

Colour scheme will be the main differentiation here. Artist edition is more white based with black and red inks while Grandmaster is primarily dark blue with white and red inks. You have seen the cards so let me move on to the tuck boxes of all three editions.

I shall show you the joker designs and I think it look just as amazing with the rest of the deck so far. The first one is the Artist deck, followed by Grandmaster deck and lastly the Bicycle deck.

SUMI Artist JokerSUMI Grandmaster JokerSUMI Bicycle Joker

Production of Artist and Grandmaster decks are printed by Expert Playing Cards Company (EPCC) while the Bicycle edition is obviously printed by United States Playing Card Company (USPCC).

There is still time to pledge for more decks if you want so go on to adjust your pledge amount here.



Card Experiment

Sumi Playing Cards

Irezumi (Wikipedia)

Kabuki (Wikipedia)

Expert Playing Cards Company (EPCC)

United States Playing Card Company (USPCC)

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