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Published November 14, 2020 Updated March 17, 2023

Sanyo Ukiyo-E

Ukiyo-E deck for Sanyo Enterprise Co.

1980 Japan Sanyo Enterprise Co Kitagawa Utamaro Art & Design Art Gallery Ukiyo-e Add to Collection

Ukiyo-E deck published by Sanyo Enterprise Co. Ukiyo-E (浮世絵; Japanese pronunciation: [u.ki.jo.e]) was a Japanese genre of painting and woodblock printing with subjects typical of the decadent lifestyle of the middle classes from the 17th century to the 19th century. Their entertainment was the Geishas and the Sumo wrestling and often Courtesans. The Ukiyo-E, which means floating world or world in the clouds, depicted these interests with pictures of the Geishas and Courtesans as beautiful women and the Kabuki actors and Sumo wrestlers as heroes. The natural world was also depicted by some of the artists. See the information leaflet

Ukiyo-e deck by Sanyo Enterprises from 1980s

Above: Ukiyo-E deck for Sanyo Enterprise Co, Tokyo, 1980s. The manufacturer is not stated.

UTAMARO (1753-1806) created woodblock prints of beautiful women and the Utamaro playing cards show details from some of his works.

HIROSHIGE (1797-1858) is considered to be the last of the great Ukiyo-E masters. Hiroshige was most famous for his 53 stations of the Tokaido (East Sea) Road. He avoided beautiful women and concentrated on the Kabuki actors and Geishas for his human subjects but he mainly produced landscapes. The Tokaido was the main highway in Japan going from Edo (now called Tokyo) to Kyoto a distance of 450 km on the island of Honshu. In the 17th century the government set up 53 stations along the route with stables and somewhere to sleep for travellers to rest during their journey. It is still the busiest highway in Japan today. See Hiroshige Ukiyo-e deck


Minolta Ukiyo-E

A similar deck was published for Minolta

Minolta Ukiyo-E

Above: Minolta Ukiyo-E deck, 52 cards + 2 jokers in telescopic box. Image courtesy Sean Comstock.

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.


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