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Japanese Woodblock Prints

Friday, January 12, 2007 Posted: 09:17 AM JST

Ukiyo-e, Japanese Woodblock Prints, are a delight to look at. You'd expect to see them anywhere in their country of origin. But if you don't know where to look, they are amazingly difficult to find. Here is a short list for the art-lovers among us. Most of the comments are by ukiyo-e artist David Bull.


Edo Tokyo Museum
Yokoami 1-4-1, Sumida-ku, Tokyo.
(next door to the Sumo hall in Ryogoku.)

Spectacular architecture containing stunning displays of many aspects of Edo life. A good selection of prints is always on display, and demonstrations by woodblock print craftsmen are frequently featured. If you've only got time for one museum - this is the one!

Tokyo National Museum
Ueno Koen 13-9, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
(in Ueno Park, Tokyo.)

The centerpiece of the collection of national museums in Tokyo's Ueno Park, located just next to Ueno Station. A good selection from their large collection is always on display, usually consisting of popular
favorites such as Hiroshige's 53 Stations or Hokusai's Fuji series. And of course, this very large museum contains much more than just prints.

National Museum of Modern Art
3 - Kitanomaru Koen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
(in the park to the north of the Imperial Palace.)

Glorious collection of 'shin-hanga' prints: Hasui, Goyo, Shinsui and many more you haven't heard of but will never forget once you've seen them.

New Otani Museum
Kioi-cho 4-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
(in the New Otani Hotel.)

The emphasis here is on ukiyo-e paintings. Colour and drama like you've never seen in the prints!

Ota Memorial Museum of Art
Jingu-mae 1-10-10, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
(short stroll from Harajuku Station.)

Frequently rotated display from their extensive collection of prints and paintings. Always worth seeing.

Chiba City Museum
Chuo 3-10-8, Chuo-ku, Chiba City.
(15 minutes walk from Chiba Station.)

Stages spectacular exhibitions in cooperation with overseas institutions such as the British Museum. Call first, to see if one is currently running.

Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts
Haramachida 4-28-1, Machida City, Tokyo.
(10 minutes walk from Machida Station.)

A vast collection covering far far more than 'just' ukiyo-e. For print buffs.

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum
Shimatachi Koshiba 2206-1, Matsumoto City, Nagano.

Very comprehensive collection covering the entire history of the ukiyo-e.

Ikeda Bunko Library
Sakae Honmachi 12-1, Ikeda City, Osaka.

Interesting collection highlighting the actor prints from Osaka - the kamigata-e.

Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
1-6-4 Namba, Chuo-ku, Osaka.
Small museum for actor prints tucked away in a side street. Also features a small exhibition about rice growing.


Tokyo - Jimbocho/Kanda area:
(near Jimbocho Subway Station)

Yamada Shoten
1-8 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
(Closed: Sun. Mon.)

Drawers and drawers and more drawers full of prints - everything from tattered old maps for 150 yen, right up to prints with a zillion zeroes in the price. This is the place to start your 'hunt' ...

Yamada Bldg. 3F, 1-8 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
(Closed: Sun. Mon.)

One floor up from Yamada Shoten. Their stock is a bit more oriented to early 20th century prints, with a good selection of shin hanga always on show.

Jimbocho San Bldg. 1F, 1-6 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
(Closed: Sun.)

More drawers! Prints of actors, beautiful women, Meiji battles ... they're all here, stacked up by the hundreds.

Hara Shobo
2-3 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
(Closed: Sun. Mon.)

A little bit quieter and more 'upscale' than the previous three shops, but no reason to be scared off, as there are plenty of prints here for anybody's pocketbook.

Tokyo - Ginza/Hibiya area:

Yoseido Gallery
Ginza 5-5-15, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.

Looking for modern Japanese prints? This is the place to go. Thousands of prints, from hundreds of contemporary artists.

Ginza 8-6-19, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.

Lovers of early 20th century 'shin-hanga' will know the name Watanabe, and yes, they are still in business, still at the same location. The glory days are gone, but they still keep a respectable collection of reproductions and modern prints.


Hankyu Street of Old Books (Hankyu Kosho no Machi)
Shibata 1-6-2, Kita-ku, Osaka
(tucked away behind Hankyu Umeda Station, in Kappa Yokocho)

13 old book shops all in a row, many of which carry prints and old illustrated books. If you can get out of this one in less than a day, you've got more will power than I do!

Teramachi dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto.

Get lost in this one, easily. An old shop, on an old street, in an old city. Single sheet prints, and a large selection of old illustrated books.

Recommended links:

Osaka Prints
The web site of Kansai based print dealer Peter Ujlaki.

Jim Breen's Ukiyo-E Gallery
List of sites with information about ukiyo-e, as well as an online gallery.

Ukiyo-e Internet Guide
An extremely comprehensive guide to ukiyo-e sites.

A collection of websites belonging to woodblock printmaker David Bull.

Ukiyo-e links
Additional ukiyo-e links on iKjeld.com.

Based on an article by ukiyo-e artist David Bull

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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