Passing on to the future the aesthetics loved by the people of Edo
In Suido, Bunkyo, approximately 160 years since the Edo period, there is a workshop that continues to make woodblock prints.
Founded in the Ansei period (1854 to 1860), the workshop is called “Takahashi Kobo.”
The Takahashi family, who have been responsible for Edo woodblock prints in the role of “Surishi” (the people who color the woodblocks and print the final image), have also been publishers since the fourth generation. Yukiko Takahashi of the sixth generation says that “The work of woodblock printing is the root of Japanese printing. From temple school textbooks to ukiyo-e prints and wrapping paper, Japanese printing has always been backed up by the technique of woodblock printing.”
Ukiyo-e prints were indispensable to the culture of Edo. This is because ukiyo-e prints of the Edo period also served the purpose of informational magazines. For instance, even if a print depicts an image of a beautiful woman, the decorations of the hairpins, the design of the kimono, the hairstyle, and the hand fan, all of those details of cutting-edge fashion from the time have been painstakingly drawn. Their artistic value is now widely recognized.
“Ukiyo-e prints are representatives of world-class traditional artisanship. There is no stopping it. But even adhering to that alone will not protect and nurture culture,” says Takahashi. Instead, we must continue to make use of these skills in order to preserve them.
Currently at “Takahashi Kobo”, Takahashi prints a wide variety of woodblock subjects, from traditional ukiyo-e, to modern art, to Ultraman.
Furthermore, she handles merchandise sold at exhibitions and also holds lectures, demonstrations, and workshops by artisans at museums and schools. By sharing the history and skills associated with woodblock prints and letting people experience them, Takahashi can bring the woodblock culture of Edo to life.
“Nevertheless, the most fundamental are the ukiyo-e prints. Making use of this rich traditional culture, I want to grasp with my five senses the style of the time, embody it, and use it to offer something that suits a contemporary lifestyle.”
Takahashi recently also has received offers from Paris and London.