Ukiyo-e and Beyond

Japanese Woodblock Printing in the 20th Century

By Ding Ding, Guest Blogger

Jokata Kaiseki as a woodblock printing artist who seemed to be a loner in the Shin Hanga(新版画)art movement, which took place in the first half of the 20th century in Japan and was meant to revive the then declined woodblock printing genre, famously known as ukiyo-e, the pictures of the floating world.

While most artists involved in Shin Hanga had been chaperoned by professional publishers, Jokata Kaiseki had single handedly self-published a series of woodblock prints, titled Twenty-five Views of Mount Fuji, from 1929 to 1931. He was also not associated with anyone active in the woodblock printing scene. Indeed, very little is known about this artist except that he was born in 1882 in Okayama, had lived in Kyoto and Tokyo, and returned to Okayama during the war years. But for many woodblock print collectors, a significant portion of pleasure in collecting prints comes precisely from discovering an outstanding print linked to an obscure name – the ecstasy of discovery.

We do not know what circumstances compelled Jokata to create and self publish this series of woodblock prints known as Twenty-five Views of Mount Fuji. Whatever it was, we have sufficient grounds to believe Jokata was an artist of firm resolution and endowed with strong executive capabilities. To produce a body of 25 designs of woodblock prints of high quality is an intimidatingly challenging project, artistically, technically and financially, especially when he himself had to function both as the artist and the publisher.

Twenty-five Views of Mount Fuji by Jokata Kaiseki well embodies the then thriving Shin Hanga style which incorporates western artistic expression, yet is grounded in traditional ukiyo-e subjects and woodblock printing techniques. Prints from this woodblock series are highly detailed, meticulously executed and have a painting-like quality. This woodblock printing technique of light embossing is widely used, especially on Mount Fuji.

Words inevitably cannot adequately convey the full power and beauty of visual arts, so we will let these woodblock prints speak for themselves and for the obscure artist Jokata Kaiseki.

*To avoid copyright issues, only 12 prints from personal collection are displayed here.

A shimosoga Plum Orchard and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Kannondo in Matsuda and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Lake Araya and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Chigogafuchi in Enoshima and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

New Year at the Lakeshore and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Yoshida Shrine and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

The Sakawa River and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Fukusenji and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

The Rural Cottages in Onuma and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Port Shimizu and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Sanomura and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)

Kōfu Park and Mount Fuji/Original Woodblock Print (Personal Collection)


References:

Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992

Seven Masters: 20th Century Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Wells Collection, Andreas Marks, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2015

www.fjsan.net/fj0412kaiseki.htm

Ding Ding is Chinese and currently living Berlin. She works in an investment consultancy business and in her spare time is an avid explorer of Japanese literature, cinema, arts and history. She may be contacted at: pearlsuite@gmail.com

Under A Tsurumi Moon

Camping in Downtown Osaka

By Richard Trombly

In Japan, there are many public parks in the cities and towns where you can go for a stroll, exercise, socialize and relax. Many have a variety of facilities for sports, children’s playscapes, public swimming pools and more.

A couple enjoys a walk in Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. Photo credit by Richard Trombly

Another common feature is BBQ areas, some supplying everything you need even the food while others offer the BBQ pits for the D.I.Y. crowd to bring in their own feast. While tents tend to spring up on the park lawns on any nice day, many of the parks have designated day camping facilities

Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park https://www.tsurumi-ryokuchi.jp/ ,situated between the Northeast of Osaka and Moriguchi Cities, is one of Osaka’s hidden gems. It covers over 300 acres, about half the size of New York City’s Central Park, and offers a lake, botanical gardens, a variety of recreational facilities and kilometers of trails. It is also known for Sakuya Konohana Kan, one of Japan’s largest greenhouses.

Sakuya Konohana Kan greenhouse. Photo credit© Oilstreet / WikiCommons

A surprising feature of this park is a campground featuring 10-place centered on a BBQ area and best of all, it is free. While some campgrounds are budget, most charge 2,000 and up.

I was bouncing off the wall with cabin fever because of Covid restrictions and I was eager to test out a new tent under actual conditions before taking it on longer cycling trips. During a week of rainy weather, I went directly to the office that manages the camping and BBQ and there was no problem booking an open spot. They even offered registration forms in English.

Camping at Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. Photo credit Richard Trombly

People often go to enjoy a bit or exercise or relaxation in a park, but it is an unusual experience to sleep in one. Thankfully, there was a break in the rain while I set up the tent. Even with the rain there were a few other campers who were not driven inside by the soggy weather and the happy sounds of children echoed around the crackling fire.

For being within the city limits of Osaka, the park became amazingly quiet. It is even protected from the traffic noise. By 21:00, the barbeque feasts were complete and kids were getting ready to climb into sleeping bags, exhausted from the day of playing in the park.

Moonrise over Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. Photo credit Richard Trombly

This was an evening that kindly granted us a break in the heavens to see the full moon rise. I was able to leave my tent and wander among the many people using the park even at night. Like most Japanese parks, it is open 24 hours a day. The Moon did not disappoint.

The residents of the campsite beside me also marveled at the moonrise. They were an Osaka single mother and her daughter seeking an escape before the summer holiday ended. The mother said that due to Covid restrictions, they did not get much of a chance to travel this summer so she wanted to do something special. The chance to be in a park, distanced from all the crowds of the city was a nice experience. She said it was better than going to a theme park during the ongoing emergency. Her pre-teen daughter rolled her eyes but remained silent.

The clouds soon enveloped the sky and blotting the Moon so I retreated to my tent. A park security vehicle, blue light rotating on top, did make its rounds a few times during the night. A cat yowled its disappointment at the lack of BBQ leftovers since nobody had used the two BBQ areas adjacent to the camps. I had some food in my pack that the kitty appreciated and so it was quiet for the night, as the rain began.

One of the cats that scavenges the BBQ and camping area each night. Photo credit Richard Trombly

I woke before the dawn in darkness and the rain had ceased. I was pleased to find my tent had weathered the storm quite well and my sleeping bag was dry. I quickly grabbed my camera. Life would soon be stirring in the park.

Sunrise over Tsurumi, Osaka. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The predawn golden hour was beckoning me and I wandered beyond the park to find a morning coffee. With another stormy day on the way, the morning sunrise was stunning. But this breathtaking view was short-lived, returning to leaden-grey overcast within minutes.

Birds turtles and massive carp come to the edge of the pond to enjoy the attention and food
offered by park guests. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The morning summoned people and wildlife alike to congregate in the park. This was a weekday so there were many joggers taking their dogs for a run before work. It struck me how friendly and full of life the morning was.

A morning break with his companion before work. Photo credit Richard Trombly

Even on a cloudy morning the beauty of the park was overwhelming. The gardens in the park have a variety making some flora in season year-round.

A pagoda casts its reflection on the lake. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The day was starting and a storm was threatening, so I returned to my tent and packed up my campsite. I made sure to carefully gather my my gear and to pack out the trash.

Mother and daughter bonding time. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The campsite beside me was coming to life. Mother and daughter busily preparing breakfast. I asked the shy child if she had fun. She hesitated. Her mother answered for her. “Yes, she had alot of fun.” The daughter? She did not say otherwise.

It certainly was a memorable experience. It was nice to take advantage of this park that is just a few kilometers from Osaka station and a stop on the Nagahori Tsurumi Ryokuchi subway line.

Resources:

Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park https://www.tsurumi-ryokuchi.jp/

Free campsites & Cheap campsites information in Japan – A listing of select free or low-cost campsites, mostly provided by local municipalities. https://camp.tabinchuya.com/en.html

Convention and Tourism Bureaus for cities or regions will often have listings of interesting tourism sites including campgrounds and day camping sites provided supported by the towns or local businesses.

Notes:

Camping is still not a large industry in Japan so when searching for campgrounds assure that overnight camping is allowed and what facilities are offered.

Reserve ahead. Japan campgrounds, even if they have a vacancy, often will not rent spaces on the same day. Unplanned wandering is not advised. Make your plan and reservations well in advance.