The secret of Ukiyo-e reproduction

Until completion of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints

The reproduction of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints has the same distinctive vividness and texture that people in the Edo period had. Here we explain how Ukiyo-e is produced and how the work created by seasoned, skilled, contemporary craft workers is succeeding the craftsmanship from the Edo period.

The quality has been proven since we started marketing the products with no unsatisfactory returns or claims, and we have many returning customers.
“Carving” is cutting the woodblock with techniques mastered over years of practice. This process starts with the procedure deciding how many blocks will be necessary to use after the masters observe the artist’s draft.
Each reproduction of one reprint edition of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints starts with the same process: The block carver starts carving the wood decoding the picture that the artist created. Then, the printing master repeats inking several colors onto the Japanese paper using the original woodblocks. One integrated teamwork from three masters, such as artists, block carvers, and printing masters, and a publisher who acts as a producer, created the Ukiyo-e.

Publisher(Chief producer) → artist → block carver → printing master
Carving Work of the Hori-shi (woodblock carver)

“Carving” the woodblock with techniques honed through years of practice. This process starts with the procedure of deciding how many blocks will be necessary to use after the woodblock carving masters observes the artist’s draft. “Omohan” is a black and white outline drawing on the woodblock. “Irohan” is representing expressive colors. More than eight woodblocks are used for finishing one product. The print blocks are made of firm old mountain cherry. They are carved with various tools, such as small carving knives and chisels dexterously. “Kewari,” carving the fine lines of even each hair, is a truly amazing technique. Please enjoy the seasoned carving technique, a skill that requires at least 10 years to practice and acquire.

*To see the process decoding the original drawing to the carving wood, please see this page.

Small moving sword
Dexterous work by small carving knives
Incising both sides of the black ink line on the carving wood requires a dexterous technique. The tip of the knife is finer than a sheet of paper. It is said that it takes several years to even master the sharpening of the knife prior to acquiring the carving skills.
Boldly moving chisel
Boldly moving chisel

Bold movement of the chisels↑
Chisels are used to “Sarai (Clean)” the unwanted parts in one stroke. Masters observe the width of the unwanted part and decide which tool works best.

An important tool to be a fingertip of a sculptor
Playing an important role as a carver’s finger tip
Carving “Omohan”
The carver starts carving “Omohan”, black inked woodblock

Carving “Irohan” following coloring by the artist (colors are assigned by the artist)

Rubbing Work of Suri-shi (printing master)

“Rubbing” is a coloring process which adds life to the woodblocks that block carvers finished their miracle works. The reprinted set uses the same Edo period natural pigments and Echizen washi, a special Japanese paper produced by a Japanese Living Treasure.
First, masters rub the major black lines and then repeat painting several colors onto the blocks one by one with swerve less control. “Bokashi (Airbrushing)” is a technique using dexterous pressure change for rubbing adjusting the amount of pigments and water. “Karazuri (embossing)” is a unique technique pressing strongly to create the texture without using any pigments. The vivid woodblock print will be completed using various techniques. The unique texture of the modern printing technique does not have the distinctive fullness of traditional woodblock printing.

Brush serving as a slinger's hand
Hake, brush, plays a role in the printing master’s hand
A hake bush, is used when putting colors onto the woodblock. There are several sizes. Depending on the size and part of the area to paint, the master chooses the suitable one. In “airbrushing,” completing the work with a very fine touch, both the master’s technique and adjustment of the pressure of the brush are important.
Stable color, when the stick
Stable color, when the stick

Tokibou, stirrer, set the colors even↑
Put the paint on to the carved woodblock

With the hands of a slinger (Baren), Maressian who raise the thought of painter and sculptor
With the hands of a slinger (Baren), Maressian who raise the thought of painter and sculptor

Baren, rubbing pad, finishing up the print used by printing masters conveying the artist and carver’s feelings ↑
“Baren,” a rubbing pad, helps the Japanese paper absorb the colors finely. Baren is made of “Ategawa,” a disk shaped from many layers of Japanese paper, a helix braided from thin bamboo strings, and a bamboo sheath.

Washi, Japanese paper handcrafted by a Japanese Living Treasure
We are using Echizen Special Japanese paper that reflects the block carvers’ and paper printing masters’ technique, and was made one by one by Master Iwano Ichibei, a Japanese Living Treasure. The Japanese paper made of 100% kozo does not have any additives, and it has flexibility that holds up through the rough procedures of pressing and printing many times. The paper, which absorbs the pigments’ color, has unique softness and warm texture.

Rubbing procedure

First, rub along with outer line on Omohan
Start rubbing smaller areas first and pale colors next

First, slide the part of the contour line
Rubbing outer lines area
Shine the thin flesh color of the boat
Rub the pale beige of the boat
The boat appears to float up
The boat is appearing
Pile and overlap the mouse color part of the boat
Rub the gray of the boat
There is a three-dimensional feeling in the boatる
Having a 3-D appearance on the boat
Shine brightly indigo color of wave splash
Rub the bright indigo of the waves
Waves are impressive
The waves gain impact
Slide indigo
Rub navy
Impact increasing
Slide dark indigo which makes waves move
Rub deeper indigo to create the wave movement
A wave swells
The waves gain heaves
Slide pale crimson in the sky
Rub pale crimson in the sky
The depth of the entire screen
The entire composition gains depth
Rub and airbrush the gray
Fuji is even more profound
Mt. Fuji gains depth
Slide dark mouse
Rub deep gray
Fuji emerges clearly
Mt. Fuji is appearing

You will be able to purchase “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” in “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji” from the following.