New Fu Takenaka prints

In our earlier post remembering Fu Takenaka we mentioned that publisher Unsodo was considering printing posthumous editions of her work. The first of these, Bunnosuke Chaya Kara, has been published since and can be found here. The works were intended to be published in editions of 200 and the newer prints simply follow the numbering, and will stop once the total of prints for a design reaches 200.

Below are two prints of Bunnosuke Chaya Kara next to each other. On the left a lifetime edition, signed by Fu Takenaka herself. On the right a posthumous edition, still numbered but not signed. Though there are clear differences, it is quite delightful to see how well the printer of Unsodo succeeded in staying true to Fu Takenaka’s unique style and to know that more prints are to come. Among these will most likely be further prints of one of her best works, Kinkaku-ji temple, late winter.

Japanese woodblock print – Fu Takenaka – Bunnosuke Chaya kara
Japanese woodblock print - Fu Takenaka - Bunnosuke Chaya kara
Japanese woodblock print – Fu Takenaka – Bunnosuke Chaya kara

Shin hanga exhibition in the Netherlands and Belgium

Currently there is a superb exhibition of Shin hanga woodblock prints at Japan Museum SieboldHuis in Leiden, the Netherlands. It is in its last week, but the prints will be on display again at the Art & History Museum in Brussels, Belgium from the 14th of October until the 15th of January 2023. There a number of Japanese prints of the collection of the Art & History Museum will be on display as well.

The Shin hanga (new prints) movement sought to revive traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking in the early decades of the 20th century. It combined the traditional ukiyo-e method of printmaking, characterized by a division of labor between publisher, artist, carver and printer, with new artistic techniques and modifications in expressing old Japanese print themes, such as landscapes, beautiful woman and birds. The movement featured artists who were of exceptional ability, such as Kawase Hasui, Hiroshi Yoshida, Ohara Koson and Kasamatsu Shiro, most at one point recruited by publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō, who was the central driving force behind the movement. Combined with skilled carvers and printers this resulted in a distinctly new style, innovative leaps and prints of the highest quality.

The exhibition provides an excellent overview of this history of the Shin hanga movement. It uses the prints to guide the visitors through the developments that the movement brought forth, all while showing some of the best of the Japanese prints of the 20th century.

Visitors of nipponprints might recognize a number of prints currently for sale. Of these we mostly have later editions printed with the same woodblocks as the earlier editions on display at the exhibition. These are mainly Kawase Hasui prints, such as Snow at Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko, Rain at Ushibori and Winter Moon at Toyamagahara. Of these it is quite clear that the last one was printed very differently in earlier editions, whereas the first one was printed very similarly. The latter is true for Kasamatsu Shiro with Spring Night in Ginza as well. Of Ohara Koson, Hiroshi Yoshida and Takahashi Hiroaki we have many earlier editions, but currently only offline.

Though these prints are great for having oneself, at the current moment it is impossible to find a better collection of Shin hanga prints on display then at this exhibition so we wish anyone reading this the opportunity to visit.

Fu Takenaka (1945 – 2022)

Earlier this year Fu Takenaka passed away. She had been ill for some time.

Fu Takenaka had started her career as a designer, working in fashion. In Japan, with its rich history of elaborately decorated Kimono fabrics, the distance between such a profession and art is minimal, or even non-existent, and Fu Takenaka transitioned to woodblock printing. She did so relatively late, in 2003, but she still managed to become very successful.

Her style stood on its own, without any woodblock artists having a similar or closely related style. Though generally colorful, her prints of temples often depicted part of the scene in black, gray and white. The results were calm and dreamlike sceneries. Next to temples, Fu Takenaka excelled in the depiction of owls. She made all these prints in the way of Sosaku-hanga artists, and thus designed, carved and printed them herself. At the end of 2020 her illness became apparent when printing further impressions of Kinkaku-ji Temple in Late Winter, as it was printed with less strength then before.

During her career Fu Takenaka cooperated with the ancient woodblock print publishing house Unsodo. Though Unsodo usually works in traditional ukiyo-e fashion, thus with a division of labor between artist, carver and printer, it very selectively cooperates with artists like Fu Takenaka. It is hoped that Unsodo might create new editions of Fu Takenaka’s designs.

Either with newer editions, or with the prints printed by herself, it is sure that Fu Takenaka’s prints will continue to be admired and bring beauty for many years to come.

Nihon no hanga exhibition ‘Snow Country: Japanese Winter Landscapes’

In November there will be the exhibition ‘Snow Country: Japanese Winter Landscapes’ in the Nihon no hanga museum in Amsterdam. The Nihon no hanga museum is a private museum founded by its director Elise Wessels. It is home to one of the most precious collections of Japanese woodblock prints in the world and holds two exhibitions each year. It is one of the foremost opportunities available to discover and see Japanese woodblock prints.

This year’s November exhibition consists of 20th century prints that display Japanese winter landscapes. The website of the museum can be found at and information about the Snow Country exhibition here.

If one is enthusiastic about Japanese snow prints, one can search our current collection for snow by visiting this page. Among the prints there you will find a later edition of Spring Snow at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto by Kawase Hasui, one of the designs present at the exhibition. Also present might be a print by Kitano Tsunetomi, of which we currently have another snow print on offer, The Heroine Umekawa in Meido No Hiyaku, this time a first edition. Finally, one of our most popular prints is a snow scene as well, Asano Takeji‘s Snow in Kamigamo Shrine, Kyoto.

As always feel free to ask any question. Perhaps soon we will be fellow visitors at the Nihon no hanga exhibition, as we are sure to visit ourselves and would strongly recommend any lover of Japanese woodblock prints in the opportunity to visit, to do so as well.

Toshi Yoshida and Animal Prints

We recently started offering a number of animal prints by Toshi Yoshida (1911 – 1995). Toshi Yoshida was active in many different genres of woodblock printing, but a constant theme throughout his career were animals. Here we will present a few of these, many of which Nipponprints has for sale.

Not coincidentally the earliest print of Toshi Yoshida we offer is an animal print too. The first edition of this design is from 1926 so Toshi Yoshida must have been only 14 or 15 years old. It is easy to imagine the origin of the stories about his talent as a child already and also easy to see the talent that would later result in his mastery. The design is still simple but a beautiful depiction of two Crabs.

Woodblock print - Toshi Yoshida - Crabs
Toshi Yoshida – Crabs

Besides his talent Toshi Yoshida also had the significant artistic fortune of being the son of one of the greatest Japanese woodblock artists, Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 – 1950). As such, Toshi Yoshida received training in woodblock printmaking from the age of 14 and had access to a studio where he could observe the work of other woodblock craftsmen. Hiroshi Yoshida is best known for his scenes of landscapes and temples, but it seems that he might have trained his son in animal prints too. Since his works have not been printed in a long time we do currently not offer any of his prints but show a picture of his 1926 print of a tiger for comparison. Next to it you can see the print Tiger by Toshi Yoshida from the same year. They might have worked on them simultaneously, or one might have drawn upon the other, most likely Toshi Yoshida learning from his father.

Hiroshi Yoshida – Tiger

Original woodblock print - Toshi Yoshida - Tiger
Toshi Yoshida – Tiger

After this running takeoff, Toshi Yoshida kept improving his skills at depicting animals via further practice. Like his father, he engaged in adventurous travels around the world, providing him with ample opportunity to study animals from all corners. An example are the Hawaian fishes from the 1950s, depicting two groups of exotic fishes swimming towards each other in the set of two prints Hawaian Fishes A and Hawaian Fishes B.

Original woodblock print - Toshi Yoshida - Hawaiian Fishes (A)
Toshi Yoshida – Hawaian Fishes A

Original woodblock print - Toshi Yoshida - Hawaiian Fishes (B)
Toshi Yoshida – Hawaian Fishes B

Going beyond only depicting the animals Toshi Yoshida also wrote about them in a series of children’s books. Some of these depict the hardships known in nature quite accurately and can perhaps be more thrilling then is common for children’s books. Others show the warmer side, most notably perhaps the book about the rhinoceros mother and child. Accompanying these stories are often stunning images by Toshi Yoshida himself. A number of the books and the images are shown below, with in the center the aforementioned rhinoceroses.

Toshi Yoshida - Children's Books
Toshi Yoshida – Children’s books (various languages)

Not all of these designs have been turned into woodblock prints, and there are unfortunately not many for sale. One design, Lion, is present at Nipponprints. Interestingly, the woodblock print is a much more abstract depiction then the image in the book, but their similarity is unmistakable.

Japanese woodblock print - Toshi Yoshida - Lion
Toshi Yoshida – Lion
Toshi Yoshida – Lion (as depicted in La première chasse)

The extent to which the ongoing dedication of Toshi Yoshida managed to add to his innate talent and familial heritage can perhaps be illustrated well with the two prints below. On the right Tiger from 1926 shown previously and right next to it Black Panther, first printed in 1987. Related animals and pictured in mirroring compositions but, though subjective, the later one showing the staggering refinement Toshi Yoshida managed to add to his already advanced early start.

IMG 1025 scaled e1589649892521
Toshi Yoshida – Black Panther

Original woodblock print - Toshi Yoshida - Tiger
Toshi Yoshida – Tiger

In the end Toshi Yoshida’s talent, heritage and devoted career have brought forward some of the best animal prints and he is rightly known as a great specialist. You can find many of these prints here, among which two of our favorites Cherry Blossoms, showing birds in a tree and displayed at the top of our homepage, and Dance of Eternal Love, with two cranes dancing in snow, as shown right below.

Original woodblock print - Toshi Yoshida - Dance of Eternal Love
Toshi Yoshida – Dance of Eternal Love