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The Tools of Printing UKIYO-E

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 11:50:52 AM Asia/Tokyo

The Tools of Printing UKIYO-E


Several tools are especially important to print ukiyo-e on paper. These tools have enabled the ukiyo-e printers to complete their works while sitting from the Edo Period.


Hake and Brush


The Edo Period ukiyo-e printers only used the Japanese traditional brush, hake, to apply the inks on the woodblock. The craftspeople cut firm horsetail into 4~5cm length pieces and make a hake. Because of the material, the new hake is so firm that it will damage the woodblock and create uneven ukiyo-e. Therefore, the craftspeople of hake have to improve the tool with sharkskin. The sharkskin makes it smoothly curved. On the other hand, the modern ukiyo-e printers use both a hake and a modern soft brush. The new tool allows them to spread ink evenly on the woodblock; the traditional hake enables them to make color gradations in their pictures. However, they can`t use ink effectively with a hake because inks easily enter among bristles of it. That`s why the modern printers use both tools. In addition, the painters use the other kinds of brushes according to the certain purposes. For example, mizubake is a 17-centimeter-wide brush that moisturizes the paper to let the paper absorb inks easily. Another example is a 40-centimeter-wide brush, dosahake. The printers used it to paint the special liquid dosa all over their finished artwork, which prevents inks from bleeding on the picture. They can use the liquid effectively with the brush because they can adjust the density of 3~4-centimeter bristles of it by themselves, so.




As ukiyo-e was becoming popular, the ukiyo-e printers improved the unique tool, baren. They use baren to press the paper onto the woodblock and let the paper absorb inks. The traditional baren is made from layers of paper, circular steel, and bamboo leaves. The craftspeople wrap the layer and the steel in a bamboo leaf. Then, they twist the ends of a leaf and knot them. Although the construction of it is simple, it took more than one mouth to create the layer of paper. Therefore, there used to be stores that sold baren in the past. However, the modern printers have to create baren by themselves because there is no store today. Although there is difference in how barens are acquired, both the old and modern printers must fix the tool by themselves. Therefore, fixing baren is one of their most important tasks. The quality of baren displays the skill of the printer.


Tokibou (hakobi)


Tokibou is the small brush made from a wet bamboo leaf. The printer uses it to mix colors, and put colors on the woodblock or the hake. In addition, they make tokibou by themselves. First, they cut a hard part of bamboo into 6-centimeter lengths and let the piece soak in water for about 30 minutes. Next, they break the 2-centimeter head of the piece into fibers with a wooden hammer. Finally, they use a string to connect it with a small bamboo stick.




Bokashi is one of the unique ukiyo-e techniques of color gradation. The technique can show a sense of perspective and third dimension in the picture. The printers usually make a gradation from dark color to subtle color. There are several techniques of bokashi.


Ita bokashi (the gradation method of carving woodblocks)


Wood-carvers usually carve deeply to define the boundary between colors, but they sometimes create 0.4-centimeter gentle slopes in their woodblock to grade the boundary softly.That is the technique of wood-carvers, ita bokashi. There are several steps in the technique. First, they carve deeply. Then, they cut the edge of the boundary at an angle toward the bottom of the groove with a knife or a bent knife, aisuki. Finally, they polish the cutting surface and adjust the angle of the surface with a scouring rush plant, tokusa. Although ita bokashi is mainly the wood-carver`s work, only skillful printer can create beautiful color gradation of ita bokashi.


Fuki bokashi (the gradation method of wiping)


Another technique of gradation is fuki bokashi. There are many types of fuki bokashi. The first technique is fukisage bokashi. It means the gradation method of wiping from the top to the bottom. The printers often use fukisage bokashi to show the immensity of the sky. They make a subtle color gradation on the woodblock, and then they put dark color on the top of the block. After that, they create one gradation from dark color to subtle color. The next one is fukiage bokashi. It`s the opposite of fukiage bokashi: the printers make the gradation from the bottom to the top. The final one is kata bokashi they wipe an ink line and make gradation. This technique enables the printers to create curve and diagonal gradations. Kata bokashi includes hitomonji bokashi and atenashi bokashi



Hitomonji bokashi (the gradation method of the form of one)


Hiroshige Utagawa, the master of ukiyo-e, often used hitomonji bokashi to paint the skies of The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido. hitomonji bokashi literally looks like the form of the kanji of one (一), a horizontal line. Hiroshige had to express endless sky in the 2-centimeter upper part of his works because almost all his works are about 24-centimeter-lengths. Therefore, he effectively used the technique. As a result, his work became one of the most popular landscape style in the art history. The steps of hiitomonji bokashi are simple. First, the printers draw a centimeter horizontal line in a color ink at the top of the paper, and then they moisten the a centimeter line blow the ink line. After that, they press the paper with baren. As a result, the ink bleeds toward the bottom of the paper and it makes a beautiful gradation. The technique needs drawing a straight line because a distorted line blurs color boundary too much. Therefore, a wrong line can negatively affect the composition of ukiyo-e.

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Felice Beato

Monday, August 19, 2013 11:29:12 AM Asia/Tokyo

We want to share with you some photos of the 19th Century in Japan. The photos was made it by Felice Beato.

Felice Beato was an italia-british photographer, he was famous for took photos in the Far East. The photos that took in Japan allows us to know how the Japanese lived prior to industrialization in Japan.

Posted in Daily life in Japan By JBO Admin

Golden week !!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 6:17:09 PM Asia/Tokyo

This week in Japan is called “Golden Week” which we have 4 national holidays in sole one week! Combined with Saturdays and Sundays, it is the period for many Japanese “salary men” or office workers to take 7 to 10 days of consecutive non-working days which is often difficult for them even during the summer holidays (summer holiday here sometimes last only 5 days or so…depending on companies, of course ).


This week, public transportations and highways are packed with people and cars.

Packaged travel plans and nice hotels get quickly reserved.


So you have to plan ahead to move around Japan this week.

And if you decide to go by car, you need an extra planning.

I remember one time I drove to a lake about 300km north of Tokyo at this time of the year. Usually it takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to get there, but at that time, it took me about 7 hours and I spent most of my first day of Golden week staring at cars in front of me.

Ever since, I prefer to take public transportation to move around this week. Packed with people perhaps, but at least you know when you’ll be arriving at your destination.


If you live outside of Japan and are planning to come here in the first week of May, be prepared to find yourself amid extra wave of people, but it’s also a nice period for the temperature is normally mild and you find special events everywhere!!

Posted in Daily life in Japan By jbo new

Not only Sakura (cherry blossom)!

Friday, March 16, 2012 3:44:50 PM Asia/Tokyo

Almost everyone here in Japan agrees that the most symbolic flower for spring is Sakura, or cherry blossoms. Indeed, it is the national flower of Japan, along with chrysanthemum which is the symbol flower of Japanese Imperial Family.


But do you know that there is another flower so typical of Japanese spring?

It is plum blossoms. They bloom a few weeks earlier than cherry blossoms when you still feel winter in the air. So when we Japanese see blossoms on plum trees, we feel the arrival of spring.


Usually the best season to see plum blooms around Tokyo is from the mid of February to the early March. This year, however, we’ve had longer and colder winter, and in most places, plums bloom a few weeks later than usual. Now they are at their best !!


I uploaded some of the pictures taken last weekend so that you can also feel the arrival of spring!

Posted in Daily life in Japan By jbo new

Spring's upon us??

Monday, February 20, 2012 7:10:49 PM Asia/Tokyo

Hellooo~ Another new member of Japan Brand Online!!

I came to Japan last Novemeber to explore The Land of the Rising

Sun - Samura/Ninja/Anime/JPOP/Technology/Sakura Blossom/Sake, etc etc..

Originally I'm from this little country called New Zealand (2 small island southeast of Australia) also

known as 'The Land of the Long White Clouds', many may now know it's the country where they

made "Lord of the Rings" by this fella called "Peter Jackson".

Japan has been pretty exciting, i get my random FREE daily massages by them 4/5 earthquake tremors!

According to the weather forecast last night, it'd be supposedly warmer from now on, so that was

why i thought it'd be SPRING SOON~!!

Well, here's something you definitely don't see everyday, even in Japan!


Will write again~!

大家好! 我是网上日本牌的新人叫小周。


我本来是从新西兰来的。 在奥州的东南方的两个小岛就是新西兰,对新西兰人来说新西兰有一个特别的名字叫“长云的国家”。


来了这么就,日本到现在都很有趣 大楷每一天都有免费按摩 哈哈- 我是说那些小地震。


这个是日本第一台新鲜香蕉自動售貨機! 在哪也看不到噢!



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Posted in Daily life in Japan By mL

Let's go to Fukuoka !!

Monday, February 13, 2012 9:27:56 PM Asia/Tokyo

Hello world!!

This is H : the Japan Brand Online Staff.

How are you today ?


Where do you live now ?

Home town ? Or new world ?

My home is Fukuoka .

I've came back to Fukuoka last week . 


Have you been to Fukuoka ?

Fukuoka is called western entrance of Japan .

There is ferry to Korea , it takes only 2 hours for land to land .


The biggest station Hakata sta. becomes much bigger than I'd remembered . 

And every department stores and every restaurants receives Asian people .

The staff can speak easy Enlish , Korean and Chinese . 


Also long time ago ,

people come and go each other .

No different then as now.


I wish today will be delightful day for you !


ferry on Genkai-nadaCan you see a ferry ? 

Fukuoka central city  The center tower is FUKUOKA TOWER .




from Tokyo JPN 



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Posted in Daily life in Japan By jbo new

The last day of winter??

Friday, February 3, 2012 4:33:38 PM Asia/Tokyo

Today, the 3rd of February, is a special day in Japan.
The day is called “Setsubun”, literally means ‘dividing seasons’.
On the Japanese traditional calendar, spring begins on the 4
th of February.
People in the old times believed that at the change of the seasons, some evil spirits appear.
In order to get rid of them, we have some interesting customs.

The most famous of all is to throw soy beans shouting out
“Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi !”(Out with demons, in with fortune!).

In Japanese language, “beans” is called “Mame”.
“Ma” can also mean “demons” or “evil spirits” and
the Kanji, or the Chinese character
, for the verb “perish”, can be pronounced “Me”.
So wishing the evil spirits to vanish, we throw beans.

Prior to this day, in supermarkets and toy stores,
masks of Oni (demons or Japanese goblins) is on sale.

Typical mask and soy beans
       A typical "Oni" mask and soy beans

It’s a common scene on the day
kids' throwing beans to their dad who puts the mask on. 
(In some families, their mam may also join and throw beans 
to “the evil spirit of the family”. )

It’s also said that if you eat beans one more than your age, you can stay healthy.

Anyway, it’s a fun day for everyone involved.
I remember I always enjoyed this custom when I was a kid. 

And we have another reason to be delighted; the cold winter ends today!
...... well, at least on the old calendar, though.
n fact, many parts of Japan are now affected by heavy snow.
The real spring seems to be still far to come. 


Posted in Daily life in Japan By jbo new

Snowy Tokyo

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 12:22:59 PM Asia/Tokyo

Last night it snowed heavily in areas around Tokyo.

In Tokyo we have snow several times in a season, but usually it’s a light one.

So the city is not quite prepared for the heavy snow and when it does, you expect the local public transportation to be delayed significantly.

Japan is famous for its punctuality, but when it snows in Tokyo, it’s certainly not the case. This morning, I had to leave home earlier than usual to commute because I knew that the trains were running behind schedule.

A suburb of Tokyo this morning

                          A suburb of Tokyo, this morning

When we, the people in Tokyo, say “heavy snow”, however, it’s actually a normal snow for those who live in northern, or mountainous areas of Japan. As you can see on the map, Japan is widely stretching north to south. When it scores – 15 in Hokkaido, the northern most parts of Japan, you can spend a day with T-shirts in Okinawa, the southern most islands. This huge difference of climate surely changes the way in which people live and think. I would say that it’s one of the sources of diversity of Japanese culture.    


Posted in Daily life in Japan By jbo new
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