XEI Shop “Unsun karuta” Playing Cards Coming Soon!

XEI is creating modern playing card decks that feature the art from playing cards from centuries ago. The history of playing cards has always fascinated me.

Here’s the original 72-card deck:



The Unsun karuta (Japanese: うんすんカルタ) deck developed in the late 17th century. It has five suits of 15 ranks each for a total of 75 cards. Six of the ranks were face cards. The Portuguese deck used to have dragons on their aces. The Unsun karuta made the aces and dragons separate cards. The order of the court cards change depending on whether it is the trump suit or not just like in Ombre. The new Guru suit used circular whirls (mitsudomoe) as pips. Unsun Karuta is still used in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto to play hachinin-meri, a game descended from Guritipau, a relative of Ombre. This game preserves some very archaic features such as inverted ranking for the pip cards in the three round suits. Inverted ranking is a feature found in Madiao, Khanhoo, Tổ tôm, Ganjifa, Tarot, Ombre, and Maw and is believe to have originated in the very earliest card games.

How could I resist? Portuguese-designed, 17th century, Japanese playing cards… LET’S DO THIS!


Here are some samples: restored with digital post-production, and re-designed, to fit the North American format (2-10, J, Q, K, A; 52 cards).