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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Jason Johnson of the Hanami deck


Illustrated by artist Antonietta Fazio-Johnson and produced by IndianWolf Studios, Hanami Playing Cards is a unique deck of playing cards currently seeking funds on Kickstarter. Hanami is available in two formats, Hanafuda and Fusion.

Hanafuda are a floral-themed deck that is rich in symbolism and popular in Japan, Korea, and Hawaii. Hanafuda cards have 12 suits with each represented by a month of the year and each month is represented by a flower. Each month of the Hanami Hanafuda deck is designed to form a tetraptych.


Since traditional Hanafuda cards lack pips and indices, the fusion deck was designed to indicate the flower, month, and type of each card. The combination of these indices with traditional Hanafuda imagery and standard poker indices are used to create a multipurpose deck that could play both Eastern and Western games.

We had a quick chat with Jason Johnson, President of IndianWolf Studios and asked him about Indian Wolf Studios, the inspiration & design process behind the Hanami deck and his favorite reward level from the project.


For those of us who don't know, tell us a little about yourself and IndianWolf Studios?
I’m Jason Johnson and I started IndianWolf Studios to focus on my passion for game design. My professional background is in computer science where I spent several years doing programming, QA, automated testing, and application design & development.

My wife, Antonietta, is the artist as well as the owner of her own business, Inner Hue Art Studio. Antonietta’s current focus has been on digital art and illustration for our playing cards and board game projects. She also has a degree in Fine Arts and years of experience with more traditional mediums, with a focus on batik.

Together, we make a great creative team! There are several projects we are currently working on; a few of them are on my website. And we have much more planned for the future.


What is your inspiration behind the Hanami Hanafuda Playing Cards? How did you come up with the idea?
Hanami was inspired by the floral motifs and symbolism-rich imagery of traditional Japanese Hanafuda. We both love playing Hanafuda and the complex history, pipless floral design, and variety of games intrigued us.

When we were first introduced to Hanafuda, the cards were not easy to find and coherent English rules were practically nonexistent. While Hanafuda are finally becoming more popular in the US, rules for Hanafuda games remain difficult to find. This is one of the things that led us to create the Hanafuda Games rulebook and Fusion deck. We wanted to make Hanafuda more accessible to new players.


Much of Antonietta’s work focuses on floral and figurative art so the concept of creating a floral series based on Hhanafuda was naturally appealing to her. She found the additional challenge of creating a consistently-themed series of 13 tetraptychs that must also stand alone as 54 unique individual images and function as a playable Hanafuda deck intriguing.

Talk to us a bit about going from the first draft to the final version. How did you get to this finished product?
It all started with a lot of research. The more we researched Hanafuda, the more interested we became in creating our own deck. Being new to the playing card industry, we also had a lot to learn about the playing card printing process and worldwide fulfillment.

Our first Hanafuda deck, i Nudi: A Tribute to Lovers, was an erotic art deck that explored Hanafuda’s illegal past and the historical censorship of erotic art. i Nudi had a rather polarized public reception, but a small print run of i Nudi was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year.


My wife jokingly refers to i Nudi as the underpainting of Hanami. Hanami was created following i Nudi as a more painterly reinterpretation of Hanafuda. As a reflection of its historical inspirations, i Nudi was designed to use a stark and limited color palette. It also substituted the traditional Hanafuda iconography with figures. With Hanami, she wanted to create a vibrant colorful deck, with more traditional iconography, that could be shared with a wider audience.

Artistically, there was a lot of focus on composition, color, and depth. Antonietta wanted to create a unique floral scene for each month, so she designed Hanami as 13 tetraptychs. The challenge of creating tetraptych playing cards was that they needed to work compositionally both as a whole and as individual cards. The design went through many hand-drawn iterations both in Photoshop and on paper.


How did you get feedback?
The 52 Plus Joker playing card forum, the United Cardists forum, and our backers have been a great source of feedback and motivation.For example, the new border design for our Fusion deck was a result of feedback from the forums. People loved the art and wanted to see more of it in the Fusion design, so they suggested opening up the borders more. It was a great suggestion and, after further discussion of some design options we came up with, we ended up with a stronger design.

What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
The Hanafuda indices for the Fusion deck. When we first began designing our fusion decks, there were a few suggestions in the forum about adding markings, similar to Hawaiian Hanafuda, that could indicate specific point values and yaku.


However, we were not satisfied with the limitations these approaches placed on the versatility of the decks. Since point values and yaku vary widely from game to game, this would have limited the decks usefulness to a particular game. Additionally, we felt these markings degraded the visual appeal of the design.

This led us to ddesignour own Hanafuda indices. Indices, similar to Poker indices, that could be used for any Hanafuda game without limitation.


The flower index indicates the flower and month. The standard poker number index corresponds with the month (2=Feb, 3=March, and so on). The type index indicates the hanafuda card type (Bright, Ten, Poetry Ribbon, Red Ribbon, Purple Ribbon, and Chaff). These indices aid players in card identification without using numerical values, phrases, or other limiting markings.

From the project page, what are a few of your favorite reward levels and why?
The Two Deck reward level with the Rulebook add-on is our personal favorite because it means that the backer not only likes our design but also wants to learn more about hanafuda. We love knowing that we are helping to revitalize a classic by introducing more people to hanafuda. The Uncut Sheets are quite mesmerizing as well.


Finally, what are your favorite playing cards?
We both enjoy artistic decks like Wicked Kingdom. The asymmetrical court cards are beautiful and the small artistic details add depth to the characters. The new Eva deck and tuck by ThirdWay Industries just caught our attention with its intricate line work, repetition, and small details. We also both love the origami tuck jackets for Steve Minty’s Hana Signature Decks.

Thanks Jason! All the best! At the time of writing, the project is 33% funded with 23 days to go. If want to support the Hanami deck, you can find it on Kickstarter here.


Pledge starts from $17 and the decks will be printed by Legends Playing Card Co. Also, there are multiple add-ons available such as the 250-page full-color Rulebook with 31 games and the uncut sheets.


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