"Images of the Floating World": The Modern Age - Shin Hanga

The Modern Age - Shin Hanga

In the early Twentieth century, the actions of a number of people helped to revive the field of woodblock printing, and two broad schools developed.

One, shin hanga (literally, "new prints"), consciously started by the woodblock print publisher Shōbazurō Watanabe (1885 - 1962), joined traditional Japanese woodblock subjects and printing techniques (in particular, a division of effort between a publisher, artist, block-carver and printer), together with Western drafting techniques, to revitalize the traditional woodblock print. Although they were produced by a Japanese process, they were in form (if not spirit) are significantly Westernized. One leading writer on Japanese prints, Hugo Munsterberg, described them, not un-aptly, as "Western-style watercolors translated into a different medium". The principal product was landscape prints, although the other two main streams of woodblock prints, bijin-ga (images of women) and yakusha-e (images of actors) were also represented.

The other, sosaku hanga (literally, "creative prints"), in which the artists Yamamoto Kanae (1882 - 1946) and Ishii Hakutei (1882 - 1958) played major roles, utilized Western concepts of art, both in the production (in which the artist was more involved in the production of the prints, often undertaking the entire process on their own), and in the subject matter and presentation, which were that of modern art.


This page shows all the prints, along with as much information as we currently have about each print; this includes the information which will be on the label cards with each print. If you click on the thumbnail image of any print, it will take you to a full-sized image of the print.

All artist names are given the Japanese style, with family name first; also the names given are usually their 'go' (literally, 'art-name', the rough equivalent of a pen-name for Western writers), rather than their legal names.

All prints are produced with the nishiki-e technique, unless otherwise specifically noted.

Some of the actors' names have not had their proper generation attached/checked (e.g. Ichikawa Danjūrō IV), and in the explanatory text their names are often missing the proper macrons (signs which indicate that the vowel is long, rather than short) over the vowels which need them (e.g. 'ū', 'ō').

The Prints

Thumbnail Artist Date Technique / Format Title / Subject Commentary
Takashi Ito (1894 - 1982) 1932, 7th month (this copy is likely a considerably later edition) tate-e oban "Dawn at Takegawa, Japanese Alps" Takashi was one of the lesser landscape artists who provided print designs to Watanabe. He studied painting as an apprentice, but also he attended the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He was primarily a painter, and only designed woodblocks intermittently. He produced about 85 woodblock prints during his career, from the spring of 1922 through 1965.

In spite of the shortage of land in Japan, sixty percent of the main island of Japan, Honshu, is covered with forests; this is due to the nature of the terrain, which makes it unsuited for most commercial uses. The Japanese Alps, the spine of the island, consist of three ranges: Southern, Northern, and Central. Many of the forested areas are accessible to tourists, and hiking tours can be arranged.

In this print, the hiker is wearing a traditional straw hat, but his outfit is updated with shorts and modern footwear.

Takahashi Shotei (1871 - 1945) (signing Hiroaki) 1936 yoko-e oban "Fuji from Mizuchubo" Takahashi Shotei was the first landscape artist with whom the publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō worked in the shin hanga project, and his work paved the way for many others. He designed large numbers of prints, more than any other shin hanga artist. Though many of his prints were intended simply as inexpensive tourist souvenirs, some are fine, memorable designs.

He was born in Tokyo, and starting at the age of nine, trained in traditional Japanese painting by his uncle. As a young man, he worked for the Imperial Household Department, copying ceremonial designs; he also illustrated magazines, textbooks, and scientific articles.

From 1907 on he designed prints for Watanabe's woodblock print business. Most of his designs show scenic Japanese landscapes, in a style derived from the classics of ukiyo-e. Although they proved popular with Western customers, Watanabe wanted to publish prints in a more modern style, and he moved on to pursue collaborations with other artists.

Like other shin hanga artists, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 wiped out Takahashi's life's work, both blocks and prints in stock (he had produced a total of about 500 designs by then). He went on to create about almost 250 prints after the disaster, many of them greeting cards and small landscapes.

One common story has it that Hiroaki had the misfortune to be visiting his daughter in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city, but this appears to be incorrect; a 1966 catalog from his publisher, Watanabe, records that he died in April of 1945, months beforehand. Other sources agree that he died in the spring, of natural causes.

Ishiwata Koitsu (1897 - 1987) 1937 yoko-e oban "Fishing Boats" Prints by this Koitsu, who is unrelated to Tsuchiya Koitsu, are quite rare. At the time, his calm rendering of such mundane scenes probably seemed of little interest, compared to the views of exotic temples and magnificent scenery which thronged the work of other artists, but today their depiction of the byways of a long-gone Japan have great appeal,

As a student, he studied design and Japanese-style painting; his first job was designing fabrics for a department story in Yokohama. He became interested in woodblock prints through a friendship with Kawase Hasui, and in 1930 he adopted the Koitsu and devoted himself to prints. He initially worked for Watanabe, but his dedication to genre scenes, and his unwillingness to produce the romantic landscapes and classic landmarks which were then in demand among Watanabe's foreign customers, led to a parting of the ways in 1935.

His background as a designer of fabrics showed through when he designed stencils which were used in the production of some of his print, a technique which had previously only been used on rare occasions in the previous century.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1936, 10th month yoko-e oban "Asa no Fuji Kawaguchi-ko (Morning Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi)" Mt. Fuji is surrounded to the North at its base by a series of lakes, ranging from Lake Motosu to the North-West, through Lakes Shoji (or Shojin in some sources), Sai, Kawaguchi and finally Yamanaka to East-North-East. Over the years, Koitsu did a number of prints showing Fuji from these lakes, of which this is one of the earliest.

Lake Kawaguchi, directly to the North of Mt. Fuji, is now perhaps the most popular with tourists; the tourist infrastructure there also serves as a base for those who wish to climb Mt. Fuji.

In this print Koitsu has created a peaceful print through the use of delicate lines and pastel inks, somewhat different from his usual style, lending a bit of surprise and colorful accent with the yellow boat on the lake.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1936 yoko-e o-oban "Natsu no Tsuki Miyajima (Summer Moon at Miyajima)" This print is Koitsu's first print showing this location, the major Shinto shrine on the island of Miyajima, Itsukushima shrine, just off the coast to the South-West of Hiroshima.

In this image, the famous marine main torii (ceremonial gate) at Miyajima is not prominent, and instead we see more of the main temple buildings, which are almost entirely built out over the water on pilings. The temple is over 800 years old, so it is no longer known with certainty why this unusual location was picked.

One possibility relates to the prevalent Buddhist teaching (during the Fujiwara period, when the current temple was built, although there has been a temple there for much longer); it was believed that when people died, their soul crossed over by boats to the Buddhist paradise of the "Pure Land". Another, drawing on the fact that the enshrined goddess is the goddess of the sea, is that this was an attempt to build her mythical "Dragon Palace".

The location and wooden construction means that upkeep of the temple is a major undertaking, due to weather damage and also decay of the pilings. However, it provides a spectacular setting, especially at night when one can see the moon reflected in the water, as here.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1937 yoko-e oban "Yuki no Miyajima (Snow at Miyajima)" This print shows the famous marine main torii (ceremonial gate) of the major Shinto shrine at Miyajima, one of the powerful emblems of traditional Japan, and felt by many to be one of the most beautiful sights in Japan. It is quite large; the main uprights are about 40 feet high, and the main cross-beam is 70 feet long.

There is a torii at the entrance to every Shinto shrine; they almost always have a a cross-piece just below the top which connects the posts, and a longer one above which juts out. One theory behind its origin is that it is related to the ancient Shinto practice of tying sacred objects together with a straw rope; a rope between two posts marking a sacred site may in time have been replaced by a log, the whole later becoming a proper gate.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1937 tate-e o-oban "Nara Kofukuji (Kofukuji Temple in Nara)" The Kofuku-ji was founded in 669 to pray for the leader of the Fujiwara clan to recover from illness, by a member of the clan. The Fujiwaras were a powerful aristocratic clan which wielded enormous influence in Japan over a five-century period starting in the 8th century, and whose descendants continued to figure up through the time of the Tokugawa, who were distantly related. When the Fujiwaras' power began to fade in the 12th century, the temple lost its influential patrons, and now only a few buildings remain of its original 175 buildings.

Kofuku-ji's five-storied pagoda has become a symbol of Nara, and is the second highest pagoda in Japan at about 150 feet tall. It is the sixth pagoda on this spot, after the first, built in 725; the others were all destroyed by fire over the temple's history. The current pagoda was rebuilt in 1426, and survives today only through the oddest of quirks: at the time of the Meiji Restoration, in the rush to modernise and discard the past, many monuments were destined for destruction. It was planned to burn the pagoda for the few thousand nails which could be retrieved from the ashes, but it was temporarily spared - not for historical reasons, but for fear the fire might get out of control. Luckily, the reprieve was long enough to allow reconsideration of its true value.

In this print, the pagoda's image is reflected in the calm waters of Sarusawa-no-ike Pond.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1938 yoko-e oban "Saiko no Yusho (Sunset from Lake Sai)" Mount Fuji (Fuji-yama to the Japanese), a dormant volcano, represents a spiritual home for the Japanese, as well acting as a symbol for their entire nation.

Lake Saiko (literally, "West Lake") is another one of the Fuji Five Lakes, located to the North of Mt. Fuji at its base. It is the smallest of the four large lakes, and the area around it is the least developed, perhaps because from much of it, the view of Mount Fuji is partially blocked by other mountains.

It is connected to two of the other lakes, Lake Shoji and Lake Motosu, by underground waterways, so that the surface levels of the water in all three always match.

In this print, Koitsu has used a rather unorthodox colour scheme in an attempt to capture the feeling of the sunset; notice especially the subtle gradation of the inks in the bokashi (shading); the printer has done an excellent job of blending the colours.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1939 tate-e o-oban "Ushigome Kagurazaka (Ushigome, Kagurazaka district)" The Kagurazaka district is a relatively compact area located in center of Tokyo. It is known for its cultural and educational activities, such as the Tokyo University of Science and Hosei University, and is one of the few areas in Tokyo where traditional gei-sha still operate.

Its history goes back to the early 15th century, when Ushigome Castle was built; the town itself was built in the first half of the 17th century, and the main street took the form it still has today. At the time of the Meiji Restoration, Kagurazaka started to become a commerical district for Tokyo, It also became an entertainment center, including such activities as yose (humour, magic, musical entertainment, etc.), enbujo (traditional dancing theater), and karyukai, which was born in there.

In this image, one can see that at the time Kagurazaka had changed little (by now it is much more built up, although it still has some of its old character). It was lit with electricity, although originally Chinese paper lanterns were used to light the way. A candle would have been lit inside a cube, or other rice paper shape, the transparency of the paper allowing the candle to create an outward glow. The original cubes were designed to fold flat for easy storage or transport, and lettering on the lanterns often identified a business or restaurant.

Ironically, this seemingly so-Japanese print is in fact almost a direct copy of a very similar print with the same title, produced by Noel Nouet, a French artist living in Japan, which was created 2 years before Koitsu's.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1940 yoko-e oban "Nagara-gawa U-kai (Fishing With Cormorants, Nagara River)" The ancient art of u-kai (cormorant fishing) dates back some 1,300 years in Japan. There are now only a few people authorized to perform it, in part because it is no longer an economically viable form of fishing. However it is still an evocative summer spectacle on the Nagaragawa River. It is now protected under the Imperial Household Agency, under a system of inherited rights that are passed on within each family; it is prescribed that in each generation the eldest son succeeds his father as a cormorant trainer.

Usho (handlers) train the birds, and tug on leashes to send up to a dozen birds at a time after fish. Each ubune (boat) contains of a crew of three men, each with up to a dozen birds. The kagaribi (fire that provides light for the cormorant) is provided by burning pine branches, or a kagari (iron pot) containing a fire. The birds are kept on short leashes, so that they remain within the circle of light. There are rings around the base of the birds' necks, so that they cannot swallow the fish; they bring them back to the boat, and the fishermen reward them with fish chunks which are cut small enough for the birds to swallow.

Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1940 tate-e oban "Setonaikai Tomonotsu (Sunset Glow at Tomonoura Bay, Inland Sea)" Tomonoura is located in the center of the Inland Sea; it is a small harbour town with 6000 residents. With a wonderful natural harbour, it has flourished as both a harbour and a town for many centuries. Mostly undeveloped, it still has covered alleys, an old lighthouse, and working but undeveloped harbour area, the only complete port town left from the Edo Period. The beauty of the moon-shaped harbour, and the small offshore islands, have long inspired poets and artists.
Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949) 1941 tate-e oban "Ame no Miyajima (Miyajima in the Rain)" This print shows another view of the torii at Miyajima, only this time on a rainy evening.

In this print, Koitsu has closely copied an earlier print by Kawase Hasui, "Misty Moonlight at Miyajima", from 1921. Note the dim outline of the deer in the foreground; this was also copied from the Hasui original.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1931, 8th month yoko-e oban "Hamana-ko (Summer Morning on Lake Hamana)", from the series 'Tōkaido fūkei senshū (Selection of Views of the Tokaido)' Lake Hamana is one of the largest brackish lakes in Japan; it is connected to the Pacific through a channel that is now about 200 yards wide. It used to be a fresh water lake, but at the end of the 15th century an earthquake cut the sandbank that had closed off the lake from the ocean; a later tsunami in the 16th century further opened the mouth of the lake.

It is famous throughout Japan as the home of the highest quality unagi (freshwater eels); as a result, the lake has many small restaurants specializing in various eel dishes.

Although Hasui is most famed for his snowscapes; this print shows off in an intense way another of the attributes for which he was famous, which was the amazing luminous quality which he managed to imbue many of his prints with.

Although many of Hasui's prints are still being produced from the original blocks (the publisher, Watanabe, has become expert at extending the life of printing blocks with careful care), no recent copies of this print are known. Watanabe has indicated that during World War II many of their blocks (which had been stored at a variety of locations for security) were destroyed, so perhaps this was one of them.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1931, 12th month (this copy printed after 1989) tate-e oban 'Yuki no Mukōjima (Snow at Mukojima)" Hasui is most famed for his snowscapes, an attribute he shares with another landscape woodblock artist with whom he has much in common, Hiroshige.

This print, "Snow at Mukojima", was originally produced in 1931, in the early middle of his career, and is one of his more famous snowscenes in "classic" style. It shows the evening tail end of a snow fall on the boatyard at Mukojima, and is generally regarded as one of Hasui's most successful atmospheric prints.

As is usual with Hasui's prints (as with most of Hiroshige's landscapes), the human figures are utterly peripheral to the design; minor elements even less worthy of notice than elements like the lighted window.

The publishing house of Watanabe has brought the technique of keeping the carved blocks productive for long print runs to what may be a new high, enhancing the longevity of block sets by treating them carefully. This particular print is a wonderful illustration of that; although the blocks were carved in 1931, the small red Heisei seal (Heisei is the nengo (reign name) of the current emperor, Akihito) in the lower right-hand margin indicates that this particular copy dates from the 1990's, after Akihito's accession in 1989.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1933, 11th month tate-e oban "Kyōto Kiyomizu-dera (Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto)" from the series 'Nihon fūkei shū II Kansai han (Scenic Views of Japan, Second Series, Kansai , Group)' The Kiyomizo temple is a common subject in Hasui's work; he particularly liked the compositional opportunities afforded by the view from the veranda of the temple, and in this print he provides a very atmospheric view on a moonlit evening.

It was founded in 798, but as is common with Japanese wooden buildings, it burned down on a number of occasions, most recently in 1629; it was rebuilt in 1633. The temple takes its name from the waterfall within the complex; kiyomizu literally means "pure water".

Situated on the side of a steep hill above Kyoto to the East of the city, the large main veranda is supported by a structure of latticed wood, using 139 support pillars. The veranda is the origin of the popular Japanese expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu", the equivalent of the English "to take the plunge". An Edo Period tradition held that if one survived the approximately 40 foot jump from the veranda, one's wish would be granted. Although the practice is now prohibited, in the Edo Period 234 jumps were recorded; of those, 85% survived, since the lush vegetation below the platform did cushion the fall.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1940 tate-e oban "Amagasaki Daimotsu (Daimotsu, Amagasaki in the Moonlight)", from the series 'Nihon fūkei shū II Kansai han (Scenic Views of Japan, Second Series, Kansai Group)' Daimotsu Bay was made famous in the 'Heiki Monogatari (Tales of Heiki)' (1185-1333), the story of the heroic deeds of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and his loyal servant, the warrior-priest Benkei, which became a fertile source for later plays and prints.

A central episode in the tale, and of later plays (such as Fuwa Benkei, Benkei in the Boat) centered on Daimotsu Bay; after Yoshitsune's decisive victory over the Taira clan at the sea battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185, his brother Yoritomo, the first Kamakura Shogun, outlawed him, and he was forced to flee, along with his followers. Setting sail, they were caught in an unusually violent storm in Daimotsu Bay, and heard the spirit voices of the dead Taira warriors calling for revenge; the spirits were only quelled when Benkei confronted them with prayers and spells while standing on the bow of his boat.

However, there is now little opportunity to experience the bay as it looked back then, as it is now part of the harbour district of the Hanshin industrial belt.

Hasui has captured this 'new Japan' brilliantly in this print, which does not capture the old, rural Japan, but rather the blossoming industrial Japan of his day - even though even in this print we still get the feeling of a Japanese setting, rather than an 'industrial modern' scene that could belong to any country.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1940 tate-e oban "Chōsen HeijChō Botandi (Modan viewpoint, Pyongyang, Korea)", from the series 'Zoku Chōsen fūkei (More Korean Views)' In 1938, war with China was initiated, which resulted in patriotic fervour; at the suggestion of his publisher, Hasui essayed a set of prints of Japanese soldiers in China, but they were not commercially successful. However, they might have interested him in continental affairs.

In 1939, at the invitation of the Railway Bureau of Korea, Hasui, along with several other artists, made a trip to Korea, which was then still under Japanese occupation. He produced two series of Korean views from this, of which this print comes from the second.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1946 (this copy printed after 1989) tate-e oban "Shiobara Hataori (Hataori, Shiobara)" This print, "Snow Storm at Hataori, Shiobara", was produced towards the end of his career. It show a blizzard of evening snow falling on the rooftops, using a technique introduced by him some decades earlier, in which the blocks were covered with many small identical gouges, producing an effect reminiscent in some ways of the pointillisme brushwork of Seurat.

Hasui had developed this technique very early in his career, and it was first seen in "Evening Snow at Sanjukkenbori", from 1920. One shin hanga catalog records that at the time, no blocks had ever been carved to produce such an effect, but Hasui had enough knowledge of the technique of block-carving to think it was possible, and Watanabe's master block-carvers managed to pull it off.

Hasui experimented with this technique in portraying intense rainfall as well, but it was not very successful in that application. He produced quite a few prints of snow scenes with it, though, of which this is one of the most successful.

Hasui was fond of Hataori, and often vacationed there. He was evacuated there during the Second World War, which was fortunate, as his house in Tokyo was destroyed in an air raid.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1952 yoko-e oban "Sakurada-mon no haru-same (Spring Rain, Sakurada Gate)" The Sakurada gate in Tokyo is one of the main entrances to the Imperial Palace grounds; the Imperial Palace is the former residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

In 1860, it was the scene of an assassination with major consequences; a high official of the Shogunate, Ii Naosuke, was killed there by a group of 18 samurai who opposed the policy of the Shogunate, and who blamed him for signing trade treaties with foreign powers. His murder was the beginning of the end for the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Ironically, in 1932, it was also the site of an unsuccessful assassination attempt, also with major consequences, on the Emperor Showa (Hirohito, 1901-1989) by members of a right-wing military group. Although their attempted coup failed, in the aftermath the military gained increasing control over the Japanese government, leading eventually to Japan's involvement, and destruction, in World War II.

Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) 1952 yoko-e oban "Bamboo Forest, Tama River", the April image from a series of prints for a 1953 Calendar for the Pacific Transport Lines 500 copies of this calendar were produced for distribution in the United States. While Hasui was not ordinarily involved in this kind of work, he seems to have become quite serious about this one, in an attempt to capture in its dozen images the quintessential nature of the landscape of Japan.

There are a number of Tama rivers in Japan, of which this one is the most significant; it rises in the Chichubu mountains, and flows Eastward into Tokyo Bay. A made-made reservoir lake along its course supplied Edo with drinking water through a man-made canal 50 kilometers long, dug in 1654; it was only finally abandoned in 1965.

The six rivers of the same name in different provinces (Settsu, Yamato, Yamashiro, Musashi, Kii and Mutsu) furnished a favourite theme for landscape artists of a previous era, in part because the word tama also means "jewel", an important symbol in Buddhism. Both Hokusai and Hiroshige produced series on this theme. As with other classic landscape sets, such as the 'Eight Views of Omi', each river had a particular theme for its portrayal.

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1926 tate-e oban "Glittering Sea", from the series 'Inland Sea' This print shows Yoshida'a involvement in experimentation with carving techniques. The reflections on the water were carved with a round chisel, although he was perhaps influenced by the work of one-time fellow Watanabe artist Hasui, who developed a similar technique for use in depicting falling snow.
Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1927 yoko-e oban "A Beach in Boshu" This print is from a posthumous edition, as can be seen from the lack of a jizuri (self-printed) seal, found on prints printed by Hiroshi Yoshida himself.

Boshu seems to be in Awa province, on the tip of the Chiba peninsula, which forms the Eastern side of Tokyo bay.

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1928 tate-e oban "Himeji Castle" This print, "Himeji Castle in the Evening", was initially published in 1926; this copy is from a later edition from new blocks, produced for a special Enthronement Edition of the 'Japan Advertiser'. The original edition was one of Yoshida's "variant impression" works, having been also produced in a version entitled "Himeji Castle in the Morning", which showed it on a cloudy morning by eschewing the use of red and yellow inks.

Himeji-jo, not far to the West of Osaka, is the largest castle building (tenshu) remaining in Japan; being built of wood, many tenshu have fallen victim to fire over the years. Several (such as Nagoya) were lost during the Second World War, while some of the most spectacular ones fell victim to accidental fires, including the massive one at Edo (Tokyo) built by Tokugawa Ieyasu (founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate), which was destroyed by the great fire which devastated Edo in 1657.

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1928 tate-e oban "Fuji from Funatsu", from the series '10 Views of Fuji' Hiroshi Yoshida was "in love with high far-seeing places"; and mountains were a passion for him; he was an ardent and untiring climber, and for thirty years he always had an annual summer climbing-trip in the Japan Alps.

In this print we see Japan's premier mountain and national symbol, Mt. Fuji, from Funatsu, which today, as then, is a center for tourism in the Fuji region, with lodging for visitors.

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1928 yoko-e oban "Fujiyama from Okitsu", from the series '10 Views of Fuji' The Okitsu river's source is in the foothills of Mount Fuji; it eventually empties into the Pacific after crossing the Tokaido.

Note the lack of a pencil signature, even though it bears a jizuri seal; this print was probably produced for the Japanese market.

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1930 yoko-e oban "Kura in Tomonoura", from the series 'Inland Sea - Second Series' This print is from the series 'Inland Sea - Second Series' - perhaps produced in response to the success of the first one, although the prints in this series are, to many, far better in both subject matter and artistic quality. This series was produced after Yoshida chartered a boat along with two friends for a trip along the Inland Sea.

A kura is, literally, an old Japanese farm storehouse; it is used here more generally to mean "warehouse".

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1932 yoko-e oban "Island Palaces of Udaipur", from the series 'India and Southeast Asia' This series was the result of a trip Yoshida took to see and draw the Taj Mahal. The trip resulted in Yoshida's most extensive series of prints, numbering thirty-one in all. He traveled extensively during this trip; his son Toshi Yoshida, who accompanied his father, records that they traveled on trains at night, and worked during the day, before moving on the next night. The series thus covers much ground, from the foothills of the Himalayas, to Kashmir, and all the main sites of India.

This particular location, the Lake Palace on the artificial lake in Udaipur, now an exclusive hotel, may be familiar to aficionados of James Bond movies; it was used in the Bond movie "Octopussy" as the headquarters of the female lead character.

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 - 1950) 1933 tate-e chu-tanzaku "Garden in Summer", from the series 'Four Garden Scenes' This print shows a scene near Kyoto. Although the combination of the title of this print, and the size of the series, might suggest otherwise; this series does not in fact show gardens in the four seasons (although one of the other views is an autumn scene). Note the unusual long, thin format, used in all of the prints of this series (two vertical, two horizontal); this is the only occasion in which Yoshida worked in this format.
Toshi Yoshida (1911 - 1995) 1951 tate-e oban "Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)" This Kyoto temple, popularly known in Japan as the 'Silver Pavilion' (its formal name is Tozan Jisho-ji; there is another, older, temple of similar design nearby, known as the 'Golden Pavilion') was built around 1485. It was originally designed by the Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimasa as part of a retirement villa; it was to be covered in silver, but that was never carried out, and it became a Zen Buddhist temple after his death in 1490. The once ostentatious design is now, ironically, a wonderful example of refinement and simplicity; it combines Chinese elements with the developing indigenous architecture of the Japanese Muromachi Period (1333-1568).

Toshi Yoshida is the son of the noted shin hanga artist Hiroshi Yoshida. In addition to helping his father with the production of his prints, he also became a woodblock artist of some note in his own right. Born into an artistic environment (his grandfather was also a woodblock artist), he showed signs of artistic promise at a very early age. As a young man, he traveled widely in both the East and West, seeking new subject material. While touring, he also did much to spread knowledge of the Japanese woodblock print.

Takeji Asano (1900 - 1999) 1953 yoko-e oban "Rain in Higashi-Honganji Temple, Kyoto" Takeji Asano was born in Kyoto, and he underwent a long and intensive art training, graduating from the Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts in 1919, and from the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting in 1923. His work as a shin hanga print designer continued through the 1930s, but at the same time he learned the skills of carving and printing, which allowed him to create his own self-carved and self-printed landscape prints. He helped to organize the Kyoto Creative Print Society (Kyoto Sosaku-Hanga Kyokai) in 1929. He was still actively working as a printmaker in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Buddhist Jodo-Shinsu ('True Pure Land') sect was founded in 1224, and is today one of the two most populous Shin Buddhist sects, with approximately 5 million members. The sect was unique in its belief in the Amida Buddha, grantor of salvation, as well as its rejection of celibacy.

The temple whose main gate is shown in this print was founded in 1602, and was rebuilt several times, most recently in 1895, after a fire burned down the previous one. Its main hall is Kyoto's largest wooden structure. The great two-story gate, Daishido-mon, built in 1911. opens to Daishi-do (Founder's Hall), with its massive wooden columns This section is now open to the public.

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© Copyright 2007-2013 by J. Noel Chiappa

Last updated: 23/August/2013