Woodblock Printing: Ukiyo-e

You have no doubt seen some of these pieces of art, but maybe were not sure exactly what they were. These are traditional “ukiyo-e”, or woodblock prints. The wood shapes are carved in intricate detail from the initial drawings of the artist. Then the woodblock touches dark ink and is applied to paper, usually a rich washi-type paper that is famous in Japan. Then the print is colored in by artists. The final production is the result of many artists and craftspeople working in concert together.

There are all kinds of ukiyo-e woodblocks. We can find landscapes, Mt. Fuji, samurai, kabuki actors, geisha, scenes of historical events, battles, poems, and even fantastic creatures called “yokai”, goblins, ghosts, and all sorts of creepy things. Take a look at some of them and you will see how uniquely Japanese they are, symbols and stories of ages past. Beautiful, and even relevant and meaningful today.

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