prints

The surprising and little-known Japanese art of gyotaku: culinary prints made with real fish

Japan has a fascinating art history. From early cord designs on clay vessels in the Jomon period (c. 11000–c. 300 BC) through to picture scrolls, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and the distinctive style of animation that exists today, people in Japan have always found unique ways to capture the world around them for the rest of the world to see.

One little-known art technique from the 1800s is now making a comeback, and while its roots are firmly planted in Japan’s traditional history, it’s a method of printing that people all around the world can enjoy. All you need is paper, some paint and a nice-looking fish.

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These 19th-century Japanese miniature landscapes show that size isn’t everything

The Tōkaidō is perhaps the most important road in Japan’s history. Built in the 17th century, it connected the country’s two powerhouses: it runs from Kyoto, the imperial capital, to Edo (now Tokyo), the seat of the Shogunate. As well as being an important political and trade route, depictions of the Tōkaidō in art in literature were abundant and popular.

The best-known of these is Utagawa Hiroshiges’s series of ukiyo-e woodcut prints, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. Ukiyo-e woodblock printing like this continued to flourish in Japan until the 19th century.

Less famous than Hiroshige is the relatively unknown ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Yoshishige, who produced his own prints of the 53 stations along the Tōkaido – by depicting each station in the form of a potted landscape.

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