Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot Deck Review

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot, complete in box.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot, complete in box.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot by Minekura Kazuya

Status: Rare; Not reading with it.

Best for: Fans

Favorite cards: Don’t have any.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki Tarot deck was a rare find that I scored for a mere $15 on eBay back in 2005. A full 78 card deck in a hard plastic case (possibly the best tarot box I’ve ever seen a deck come in) in full color. The cards and book are in Japanese but at the time I didn’t care because while I was fairly mediocre at understanding Japanese I had the patience to sit through my dictionaries and find the meaning of the words I didn’t know. I’m severely out of practice right now to the point of uselessness so the deck just sits and is loved from a distance. (I’m relearning Japanese but it is slow going and myriad in heartbreaking nostalgia.)

A card by itself. This image is from manga.

A card by itself. This image is from manga.

The Gensoumaden Saiyuki is primarily useful for only fans of Minekura’s work. The art comes from all sources from manga splash pages and covers to art books she’s produced. There’s also a mix of characters from other manga she’s produced. I didn’t mind this surprise since I’m a fan of her work as a whole but it’s something to note. For those completely unknown to the series. It’s a retelling of the Chinese classic Journey to the West (which I’m also a fan of) and is not only a fairly long-run manga but also an anime. There’s also at least one novel running around too and several audio CDs.

The deck compared to your average sized Sharpie.

The deck compared to your average sized Sharpie.

The series itself holds a special place in my hear and I’d say was a catalyst for how I matured into an adult. It never bordered on pop culture paganism or magician status but still held incredible importance to me at one point in time and will have lingering affects throughout the rest of my life to be sure. That being said, I don’t really involve myself in the series anymore outside of keeping up with new updates as a whole.

The deck compared to a standard size Tarot deck, here the Chrysalis Tarot. You can even see how the cards arch in the box to the left.

The deck compared to a standard size Tarot deck, here the Chrysalis Tarot. You can even see how the cards arch in the box to the left.

The deck itself is a full 78 card deck. The cards are small though and very narrow. Length-wise, there’s the same height as a standard tarot deck but they’re almost half the size width-wise. The card stock’s OK. The backs are smooth and slick, coated perhaps in a plastic covering not unlike playing cards but the reverse side with the card image feels like the card stock of an average greeting card. My deck also as little flaws like a remnant at the top where the cards were once connected and there’s a mar on the card backs from the printing.

The largest physical flaw is the cards do not lie flat. You can see that plainly in the photos. They could be pressed into being flat if one cared to do so. I didn’t bothered. I believe it would be a futile struggle. I think the shape of the cards help facilitate the curve. Shuffling’s pretty much a nightmare due to the curve and I don’t think the card would last long under constant usage.

Look how the card curve and arcs here. That's  due to the shape and card stock rather than usage which is more typical in tarot card curving.

Look how the card curve and arcs here. That’s due to the shape and card stock rather than usage which is more typical in tarot card curving.

The art isn’t entirely consistent either. As I mentioned, the art for the deck was collected from various sources over the course of Minekura’s career. The art quality varies accordingly. This is good for fans of her artwork and story telling as a whole because they can see often forgotten series showcased a bit (sadly, not my favorite Stigma which is gorgeous but I digress). You can see some of that in the photos but it’s fairly random what’s featured. I’m fairly certain the images were just grabbed from her artbooks which is A-OK as far as I’m concerned. This wasn’t specifically a project she set out to make but rather something that was produced in her series’ name.

The booklet that comes with the deck. (LWB)

The booklet that comes with the deck. (LWB)

Inside the booklet. Yup, still Japanese.

Inside the booklet. Yup, still Japanese.

It comes with a LWB that comes with spreads in it. However, I recall the book itself being a generic printing from the publishing company. Still, I remember being rather surprised the deck was even standard and had a book. It was fairly rare to run across at the time (from my experience).

As mentioned above, the deck and book is written in Japanese. However, don’t let that deter you if you want to use it oracle style. It could be easily done. But it is meant to be a tarot deck with the fairly traditional meanings. Would I crack open Waite’s A Pictorial Key to the Tarot to read these cards? Nope. I’d rather just go with what feels right. It has that kind of feel to it.

This is the kind of case you can toss in your bag with no worries about your cards. Perfect.

This is the kind of case you can toss in your bag with no worries about your cards. Perfect.

The best part of the deck in my opinion is the card box. I mean, the cards are great, especially for fans but the box can withstand some serious damage. Hard clear plastic, it’s divided into two size and fits perfectly. I do think the plastic box doesn’t help with the card shape however which is something to keep in mind.

However, this is a great box and I wish more companies produced boxes like this! It keeps the cards nice and safe, secured. Not only that, this box can take some damage. It’s not the easily cracked plastic that CD cases are made out of but not the super hard acrylic that baseball cards are kept in. it’s somewhere in between. Absolutely great for storing cards or tossing them in your bag where you know for sure that they’ll be safe from all kinds of damage like pen tips and even dampness.

A selection of cards from the deck. Note the art variations and even characters.

A selection of cards from the deck. Note the art variations and even characters not from the Saiyuki series (third from the right). Some of the cards aren’t even a north to south oriented card (second card from the left).

The deck also is lacking in soul. Decks that are created with divination in mind tend to have a more noticeable and outspoken soul to them. As an animist, I think anything can develop a soul and mine certainly have but you may feel a curious emptiness when handling the deck at first. This happens when decks are cobbled together and mass produced. (This isn’t to say mass printed decks aren’t good. Almost all of mine are mass printed and are perfectly wonderful. It’s just something I notice with decks that have the aforementioned criteria combined.) I actually doubt Minekura’s aware of the deck any more than she’s aware of her other series-related products. However, that doesn’t remove the personality from the art itself and the more you know of Minekura and the worlds she creates with her stories, the more the deck speaks to you. (Also, my heart goes out to Minekura. She’s had terrible luck with her health and I’m always hoping that she heals swiftly and surely.)

It does read well, however. As mentioned above, I tend to side more towards oracle style of reading than full tarot for this deck because of what I know about the series in question, the artist, and color symbolism. That’s just me though. I find it offers a clean, “no bullshit” sort of reading. Careful for word traps. The deck also tends to linger on self doubts and traumas more than you’d expect given the card images. (That relates more towards the deck’s subject material than anything else, in my opinion.)

Would I buy the deck again? Absolutely, if only for sentimental value and the fact that I haven’t run across it again online or in person. Would I use the deck? No. The cards won’t last long with usage. It’s one of the view decks that I’ve only used a few times for personal readings and won’t likely do so again. An updated version wouldn’t go amiss, especially since Minekura’s back to drawing and creating. However, this deck’s fun and worth picking up if you see it around, you’re a fan, and you read Japanese.

The Dreaming Way Tarot Review

My favorites! The Queen of Swords, Page of Swords, the Hermit, and the Tower from the Dreaming Way Tarot

My favorites! The Queen of Swords, Page of Swords, the Hermit, and the Tower from the Dreaming Way Tarot

Dreaming Way Tarot by Rome Choi and Kwon Shina

Status: Currently reading with it

Best for: This deck loves to lay down some truth and to give you a boot when you need to get moving. We get along beautifully so I find the deck to be rather literal.

Favorite cards: Hermit, Queen of Swords, Page of Swords (with a bonus of the Tower!)

Acquired from: A beautiful surprise birthday gift from hellboundwitch

Probably my current favorite deck, I use the Dreaming Way all the time as my clients can attest. This deck is so soft and gorgeous. With a Korean manwha art style, it combines strong lines and simplified art style with incredible details and patterns in small form.

Dreaming Way deck back and LWB compared to a standard Sharpie.

Dreaming Way deck back and LWB compared to a standard Sharpie.

Published by US Games, the deck’s standard tarot card size with a fairly standard size LWB. The card stock is pretty much spot on in terms of perfect in my book. The deck shuffles easily and smoothly.The back of the deck is a vibrant patterned green which I love. It reminds me of eyes and gives the cards some flash when shuffling. I ended up crocheting a bag to match the card backs rather than the general theme of the deck because I loved the colors so much.

The Dreaming Way LWB

The Dreaming Way LWB

As far as the little white book goes, the Dreaming Way tarot is standard. A little blurb on the card itself plus it’s upright and reverse meaning, if you choose to read that way. I don’t tend to refer to this LWB at all unless I want to understand what a minute detail in the card might be when studying the deck.

One thing that’s worth taking a second to glance through is the introduction to the Minor Arcana. It’s about two pages in that tiny book but I liked the way the ideas there were expressed with the characteristics of the suits as mind, body, and soul.

Dreaming Way Tarot's King of Wands, Magician, Five of Swords, and King of Cups

Dreaming Way Tarot’s King of Wands, Magician, Five of Swords, and King of Cups

The deck reads as a RWS deck but it’s not entirely a carbon copy. There’s some original and smart thinking that went into this deck if you look at the details. Take a look at the King of Wands in the above (kind of blurry) photo. There’s a lizard on his clothing. Wands are generally associated with fire so the link to salamanders is there, ready to be made. The King of Cups (above photo) is also smartly done. A king standing alone awash a sea eyes closed from the dangers around him? Speaks of a man who feels and trusts his feelings despite any mocking or danger that might comes his way from such trust. Even the poses of the characters have meaning. This is mostly true of all decks but it’s showcased in a subtle (and not so subtle in some cases) way here. Of course, that’s just my interpretation but I really like how each card has just a slight difference that makes this deck special.

Fool, Two of Swords, Queen of Wands, High Priestess of the Dreaming Way Tarot

Fool, Two of Swords, Queen of Wands, High Priestess of the Dreaming Way Tarot

This deck reads extremely well. I find it a very intuitive deck that has a lot of offer. Incredibly intimate and emotional (look at all the water references) it has a punch of creativity, movement, and quiet energy in most of the cards. Wands are everywhere in this deck and the intricate backgrounds combined with little details such as the Torah the High Priestess is holding makes the deck worth a second look.

The deck’s great for honest, gentle truths (but it can still throw a mean punch when needed) and is great for introspection and exploring the details of a situation without being smacked over the head with over the top symbolism.

The Dreaming Way Tarot's Devil, Eight of Cups, Lovers, and Page of Wands (another favorite!)

The Dreaming Way Tarot’s Devil, Eight of Cups, Lovers, and Page of Wands (another favorite!)

One thing to notice is that there’s some interesting interpretations of the cards here. I love the Devil here. Instead of a gruesome visage it’s a winged and horned woman wearing a her straight jacket like a cloak holding chained lovers. It speaks more of the chains we create for ourselves rather than a connection to sins which I wholly enjoy in this deck.

The Lovers here is another interested card. Winged beings are shown in the deck, such as the Devil, Temperance, and Judgment card but in those cases the Devil has bat-like wings and Temperance and Judgment have more of the feathery angel wings. But the Lovers is different. Here we have butterfly fae like wings. The birth and change of something that was brewing into something beautiful. There’s a bit of a leap of faith reference in there too with the fae’s closed eyes. It’s very much on purpose and a warm, lovely Lovers’ card. The hard choices that the Lovers’ card is there too though. Notice only sky background. What would happen if one of the potential lovers let go? Would they fall in love or fall out of it? What would that choice do?

Dreaming Way Tarot's Hanging Man, Star, Seven of Cups, and Moon

Dreaming Way Tarot’s Hanged Man, Star, Seven of Cups, and Moon

The Hanged Man and Moon (above) are other great examples of the slightly different interpretation. The Moon has no direct association to water here in the card and instead the spectacles-wearing figure is playing with the Moon’s common card companion, the crustacean. Here, the crab is traded for a lobster. This, to me, plays with the less emotional impact of the Moon cards and more of the confusion and mystery of the card. Looking past the confusion, illusion, and unnecessary fear and seeing the clarity and truth behind it.

The Hanged Man has clothing hangers on the branches. Do you see them? Not only that but notice the figure’s tie is perfectly upright despite the bonds that hold them still be affected by gravity. Here the halting a take a moment of contemplation while at a standstill is clear. Donning off the nonsense and looking at the truth is implied. Beyond this, growth is possible once you work to free yourself and get moving again.

Another set of favorites from the Dreaming Way Tarot.  Four of Swords, Seven of Swords, Page of Cups, Page of Pentacles

Another set of favorites from the Dreaming Way Tarot. Four of Swords, Seven of Swords, Page of Cups, Page of Pentacles

Issues with this deck include a lack of noticeable POC and the fact that the colors don’t show up well in photography. At all. The text on the cards pairs well with the deck but the combination of text and soft color palette seems to mess with camera focus. This is especially true is you have more than one card in the photo.

Overall, I highly recommend the Dreaming Way Tarot if you like introspective decks and the art is pleasing to you. It’s one of my favorites and every time I use it we build a much better rapport. While you can easily jump in and read the deck, it’s definitely worthwhile to spend some time and pick out the differences in the cards and what’s similar to other decks to see how this one reads. It’s a great all purpose deck, especially if you do a lot of soul searching or introspection.


Dreaming Way Tarot by Rome Choi and Kwon Shina © US Games Systems

Introducing Divination Tool Reviews!

I’m really excited to announce this new, on-going series of blog posts! Diviners use all sorts of tools to get their readings from looking up at the sky and watching birds to using a tarot deck. There’s thousands upon thousands of different tools out there, especially in regards to cartomancy methods. A lot of diviners end up with large collections of decks they hoard and adore.

However, not a lot of people actually post about their experiences with various decks or tools and that’s really a shame! Divination tools can be expensive and if you make a purchase and end up not liking it, the tool itself can be hard to rehome. Reviews can make decisions far easier in terms of whether or not a deck will mesh with you personally.

Each deck tool I use is one I personally own and use. This doesn’t mean each and every tool will be the same. My aventurine pendulum won’t be the same as yours due to lots of reasons such as where it was mined, shaped, and sold from. It can all vary and that’s part of the fun! I’m an average consumer in terms of tools, especially since I’m willing to try a bunch of different divination techniques involving a lot of different tools. Some things I’ll make myself and others I’ll shop around or save for. It’s fun and should be fun. Hopefully my reviews help a little.

What will each review include?

Each review post will include images of the tool in question. Physical specifications such as the size of the tool, the material and quality, where it’s purchased from, and a discussion on my experience with the tool itself. Discussions such as art style, feel of the tool, any associated books or items that the object came with, and favorite aspects of the tool.

Each review will then be cataloged in the “Tarot and Oracle Decks” page, as you see linked above. (The page title is something of a misnomer since there’s more than just cartomancy tools in there but shh.) As a bonus, that page will be cleaned up to be more user friendly because it’s kind of ridiculous right now.

Posts will be using the tag #divination tool review and the category Divination Tool Review.