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Japanese Woodblock Prints

Woodblock printing in Japan (木版画, moku-hanga) is a technique best known for its use in the ukiyo-e artistic genre of single sheets, but it was also used for printing books in the same period. Woodblock printing had been used in China for centuries to print books, long before the advent of movable type, but was widely adopted in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868).
Woodblock printing appeared in Japan at the beginning of Edo period, when Tokugawa shogunate was ruled by th​e Japanese society. This technique originated from China, where it was used to print books for many centuries. Its original name is ‘moku-hanga’ and it has a wide usage in artistic genre of ‘ukiyo-e’.
As opposed to western tradition, where artists used oil-based inks for woodcuts, moku-hanga technique uses water-based inks. That is why those prints had colors so vivid, as well as glazes, and transparency.
This collection describes Japanese printmaking different schools and movements. The most notable of them were:
- From 1700: Torii school
- From 1700-1714: Kaigetsudō school
- From 1720s: Katasukawa school, including the artists Shunsho and Shuntei
- From 1725: Kawamata school including the artists Suzuki Harunobu and Koryusai
- From 1786: Hokusai school, including the artists Hokusai, Hokuei and Gakutei
- From 1794: Kitagawa school, including the artists Utamaro I, Kikumaro I and II
- From 1842: Utagawa school, including the artists Kunisada and Hiroshige
- From 1904: Sōsaku-hanga, "Creative Prints" movement
- From 1915: Shin-hanga "New Prints" school, including Hasui Kawase and Hiroshi Yoshida
Woodblock prints were provided by the Library of Congress and cover the period from 1600 to 1980.
Yatsushi kikujidō
3,305 Media in collectionpage 1 of 34


Print showing scenes related to the Soga family.

[Lovers in an autumn meadow]

Print shows a young man and a young woman embracing in a meadow.

[Two lovers embracing in front of a painted screen]

Print shows a young man sitting on the floor, embracing a young woman straddling him.

[A betrothal ceremony]

Print shows an interior scene with a man entering on the right outside a room with several women; on the left shows a similarly dressed man addressing a woman behind a screen.

[A popular beauty]

Print shows a woman, full-length, standing, facing left.

[The spear dance]

Print shows a male dancer during a spear dance.

Iwai sagenta [to] katsuyama matagorō

Print shows actors Iwai Sagenta and Katsuyama Matagorō, one reclining on a veranda, the other about to climb steps to the veranda.

[Two lovers under an umbrella]

Print shows a man and a woman, full-length, walking beneath an umbrella.

Tekkai sennin

Print shows a woman holding her hands over a man's eyes and blowing a puff of air upon which a small male figure ascends; another woman is waving to the man on the puff of air and appears to be offering him a s... more

Tōjin gyōretsu no ezu ichi

Print shows a procession of Chinese men on horseback and on foot, some carrying a palanquin.

[Reading a love letter]

Print shows a young woman reading a love letter.

Nami ni goshoguruma moyō no tachi bijin

Print shows a courtesan, facing left, wearing a waterwheel and waves pattern kimono.


Print shows a warrior fighting a demon, possibly Ibaraki, at the Rashomon gate.

Daimyō gyōretsu no ezu

Print shows a long procession of men (nobility or government officials) on foot.

Takenuki gorō

Print shows a man, possibly Tokimune Soga (Gorō), uprooting bamboo.

Taka no ha moyō no tachi bijin

Print shows a courtesan wearing feather-pattern kimono.

[Preparing for the first battle]

Print shows a young woman arranging a warrior's hair prior to entering a battle.

[A beauty with an umbrella]

Print shows the actor Nakamura Sanya as a young woman standing beneath an umbrella, wearing a head covering and geta.

[A popular hero, Shibaraku]

Print shows an actor as a samurai making a grand entrance at the "Shibaraku" moment on the kabuki stage.

Yūjo chōkarō

Print shows a courtesan portraying the Chinese sage Zhang Guo Lao Chōkarō releasing his magic horse from a small gourd.


Print shows two geishas and a man eating; there is a shamisen next to one of the women, the other is holding a tea or sake pot.

Haha to ko

Print shows a mother and her son with an open book; the boy is resting on top of the book, preventing his mother from reading it.

Kaya no uchisoto

Print shows a man, woman, and a child resting outside mosquito netting.


Print shows a woman standing and a warrior attempting to pick up a large rock.

Benkei to kodomo (ataka no matsu)

Print shows the legendary monk warrior Benkei offering gifts to two children who have been gathering pine needles.

Sannin no yakusha

Print shows three actors, two playing shamisens and one with a teapot or sake pot, two are in the roles of women.

Ichikawa danjūrō [to] ichikawa monnosuke

Print shows the actor Ichikawa Monnosuke as a courtesan and Ichikawa Danjūrō as a merchant.

Kage e

Print shows two geishas entertaining a man, one is making shadow puppets and the other is playing a shamisen.

[Soga Goro making puns]

Print shows one of the Soga brothers, Goro (Tokimune), dressed as a warrior surrounded by text containing puns.

[A lover's quarrel]

Print shows a man, scowling, with a shoulder pole and a basket full of jars and bowls, standing in front of a woman with a smug look on her face.

Ueno ikenohata sakura no hanami no kei

Print shows many people in a pavilion and in Ueno Park viewing blossoms on cherry trees.


Print shows a woman selling flowers in pots on shelves suspended from a shoulder pole.

Hidari izutsu no mae

Print shows a geisha, standing, playing a zither.

[Moon viewing at Shinagawa]

Print shows men and women eating and entertaining while looking at the full moon at a large building or pavilion in Shinagawa, on the Tōkaidō Road.

San katada no rakugan

Print shows geese descending near a pavilion at the end of a long wharf in a lake, with two people in a small boat in the foreground.

[Rivals contending for a beauty]

Print shows two men arguing with each other over which one has the right to claim the affections of the woman seated behind them.

Setsubun mamemaki

Print shows family members eating beans in a room and a man, with a box of beans, appears about to toss a handful into the room; scene taking place during the annual bean throwing festival to expell demons from... more

[A willing letter writer]

Print shows a man with two women, one of the women is writing a letter.


Print shows a man and a woman playing a game, possibly go, on a kimono with a ruled pattern.

[The beauty Osome]

Print shows Osome, a tragic beauty, full-length, standing, looking at a book.

[Oman the seller of cosmetics]

Print shows Oman, a peddler selling cosmetics, with a large box strapped to his/her back.

[Beauties of the three capitals triptych]

Print shows three courtesans, full-length, standing.

Sugawara no michizane zō

Print shows Sugawara Michizane, full-length portrait, seated beneath a flowering tree.

[Hanging poems on a cherry tree]

Print shows a woman, full-length, standing, hanging poems in a blossoming cherry tree.

[Beauty holding a book]

Print shows a woman, full-length, standing in front of an illustrated screen, holding a book.

[Playing with a puppet]

Print shows a woman, standing, holding a puppet of a woman above her head.

[Two lovers in a boat]

Print shows a man and a woman in a boat; the man is holding a small drum and appears to be serenading the woman beneath the moon.

[The black knight]

Print shows a man, possibly an actor or a samurai, with sword, holding an umbrella, wearing a black kimono and geta.

[Passing a love letter]

Print shows a young man discretely passing a love letter from beneath the folds of his kimono.

[Two girls whispering]

Print shows a woman, sitting, embracing a young girl, and whispering to her.

Sawamura kodenji to otoko

Print shows two actors, one holding a fan, the other, in the role of a woman, is holding a drum.


Print shows a child emerging from behind a rope curtain.

Ichikawa ebizō no kinzaemon yorikata

Print shows the actor Ichikawa Ebizō as Kinzaemon Yorikata fighting a tiger.


Print shows a man and a woman, wearing geta, walking beneath an umbrella next to a blossoming tree.

Kaki mogi[tori?]

Print shows a young man holding a young woman on his shoulders as she reaches to pick persimmons from a branch above them.

Ito zukuri

Print shows two women preparing silk thread.

[Ito nishiki brocade, commonly called anhera-ori (weave)]

Drawing shows floral and vine designs for kimonos.

[Nishiki brocade with cherry blossoms and wave designs on red background]

Drawing shows stylized flower (cherry blossom) designs for kimonos.

[Donsu, damask with light green peony arabesque]

Drawing shows peony arabesque design for kimonos.

[Two musicians seated on a bench, wearing geta]

Print shows a man and a woman sitting on a bench, playing a shamisen.


Print shows two women with short benches and small baskets, and a young boy; one of the women is picking tea leaves, the other has finished her task and is departing with the young boy.

[Nishiki brocade with Amaterasu Kotai Jingu Shinto shrine] [Nishike brocade with wheelbarrow].

Drawings show stylized designs for kimonos of a Shinto shrine and a wheelbarrow.

Chūgoku hanga

Print shows a Chinese wiseman holding a sword and riding on the back of a tiger.

Onoe kikugorō [to] nakamura kiyosaburō

Print shows actors Onoe Kikugorō and Nakamura Kiyosaburō, wearing geta, portraying street musicians.

[Momoiro shusu (pink satin)] [Shima shusu (striped satin)].

Drawings show solid and striped designs for kimonos.

[Rinzu (figured satin)]

Drawing shows stylized floral designs for kimonos.

[Ra (Usumono) gauze weave]

Design drawings for kimonos on fabric.

[Ito nishiki (yarn brocade)]

Print shows stylized designs, possibly of rabbits, for kimonos.

[Nishike brocade with paulownia arabesque, with red background]

Drawing shows bright floral, leaf, and vine designs for kimonos.

Sawamura Sōjūrō no Soga no Jūrō to Ichikawa Yaozō no Soga no Gorō

Print shows two actors (possibly Sawamura Sōjūrō, 1685-1756, and Ichikawa Yaozō) in the roles of two brothers who attempt to revenge their father's murder.