Monthly Suits


02 February

Cold breeze beyond,

Half a bubble off of plum,

A sweet call from spring.

February’s suit, or hiki, is the Japanese plum blossom. Also known as ume, it is a very important flower to the Japanese culture. Some may argue it is more important the than the cherry tree (which coincidentally is the suit for March). Most plum blossoms have 5 petals and range from white to dark pink. In the winter time, they act as a brilliant accent to their dark stem and even more awe inspiring when contrasted with snow.

For my Modern February cards, I wanted to play up the “thicket” idea and use straight, modern gestures rather than light curves to convey the idea of the plum. This was also one of the first sets I sketched before the Kickstarter campaign and marks a the progression from solo cards to a suit panorama. If you look closely, you will notice that the panorama is not perfect in that the stems do not necessarily carry through to the next card.

As I have explained in past posts, tanzuki are little red ribbons used for poetry back in the Heian period. This ribbon is special in that it actually has poetry written on it. From what I understand, there is some debate as to what is exactly written on this little poem, but most would agree that the script says akayoroshi and employs some hentaigana, or uncommon, character.

Sometimes referred to as a nightingale  the fourth card features the Japanese Bush Warbler. In a traditional deck, only one bird is shown but in the Modern Hanafuda, I chose to throw in an extra bird. One sports the traditional bright plumage while the other is a more subdued version of spring so that the bird may hide among the brush.

Truth be told, I had not heard of this bird until after I completed the card but have found the melodic sing-song to be mesmerizing. According to the video this sing-song marks the end of winter and the coming of spring. Truly a rare treat.

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