Mokuhankan conversations

Next to those prints are the genre that we call David’s Choice (for want of a better term …). These are prints that we make from the blocks that I myself carved over a five-year period from 1999~2004, in the series that I called ‘Surimono Albums’. They range all over: landscape, figures, nature, still life … you name it. I selected designs that fit two criteria: the image itself had to be interesting, and the construction of the print had to provide me with an opportunity to learn some new technique. The ‘interesting’ part of that equation seemed to work out, because these two bins together now provide 21% of the total income from this shop!

There are some more Yoshida prints here (that didn’t fit in the previous bins), and we also keep the prints in our Guest Corner here.


These are items from ‘outside’ printmakers who I have invited to display their work in our shop. I select them based on personal preference, but with a non-negotiable feature – the prints must use Japanese paper and Japanese techniques (the image choice is completely up to the makers). I want these prints here to help show the world that images of many interesting types can be made with the wonderfully flexible Japanese methods …

That’s the end of the first main browser bin, mostly made up of our own publications. Moving down the row, all the rest of the prints in the shop are in what we call the Mokuhankan Flea Market. These are prints that we have not made ourselves, but which we obtain from estate sales, dealer auctions, and other sources. The prints in the previous groups are ‘new’; these prints are ‘used’.

And last – but most definitely not least – we now have room to display some of the larger prints that we have collected over the years. The 1980s – ‘bubble years’ here in Japan – saw the production of some stunning woodblock prints (and reproductions), and after the passage of a half-century or so, many of these are now finding their way onto the used-print market. We pick these up whenever we can afford to do so …

We have had a hard time keeping up with packaging, displaying, and uploading all the prints we have been acquiring for the Flea Market. Sharing them online and making them available in our online Flea Market has been especially slow going. Recognizing this issue has led us to consider new ways to share the prints more frequently, but we have not yet decided what form this will take. For today I just thought I would share a bit about the new corner in our renovated shop, where we provide a place for our visitors to explore our largest Flea Market prints.

Our plan is to periodically change what print is featured in the frame on the wall, and leave our large booklets open on the counter-top for people to browse through. These large booklets have long been part of our Mokuhankan shop, but in our earlier location, there was very little room for people to open them and see what was inside. Now, though, there’s a beautiful clean space where you can to become acquainted with these lovely antique prints.

As you can see in the picture above, the arrangement today features various editions of the aforementioned "Woman Applying Make-up". Designer Hashiguchi Goyo died young in 1921, and in the law at the time in Japan, his designs entered public domain fifty years after his death. So starting in 1971 publishing houses Yuyudo and Tanseisha started competing with each other printing their own editions of many of his designs simultaneously!

In the case of this image, Yuyudo’s edition (in the booklet on the right side, and the image Dave is holding in the top picture) was carved and printed in the same size as the 1918 original, with an image measuring approximately 36.5 cm wide by 52 cm tall. Tanseisha’s printing of the same image is a bit smaller at 32 cm wide by 43.5 cm tall.