Articles

Aizuri-e: Japan's Blue Period

Aizuri-e: Japan's Blue Period
Prussian blue pigment was introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 1700s. This new strong blue colour exploded onto the printing woodblocks of artists across Edo, creating a print genre called aizuri-e (藍摺絵).
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Aki - Woodblock Prints for Autumn

Aki - Woodblock Prints for Autumn
Autumn in Ukiyo-e As summer turns to autumn, let’s explore the beauty of the coming season in ukiyo-e (浮世絵).Autumn in Japanese is called Aki (秋), which contains the words for grain (禾) and fire (火). It is a season marked by the warm orange, red and brown hues which also become ...
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Gishi-sai Festival - The 47 Faithful Samurai

Gishi-sai Festival - The 47 Faithful Samurai
Gishi-sai Festival - The 47 Faithful Samurai Gishi-sai is an annual winter festival held at Sengaku-ji Temple in Tokyo. It honours 47 brave rōnin (浪人, masterless samurai) who gave their lives to avenge their lord and master in an event known as the Genroku Akō Incident (元禄赤穂事件 ...
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Shoki the Demon Hunter

Shoki the Demon Hunter
Charms and amulets have been a popular means of protection against illness for the longest time. In the past, such a misfortune was considered to have supernatural origin, as well as natural causes. Belief in supernatural forces, such as the evil eye or witchcraft, was deeply rooted into the ...
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The Water of Atonement

The Water of Atonement
Images of water are often depicted within the tattoos of multiple cultures, whether as the ocean, seas or in other forms. Within the West these are often featured alongside ships and sea creatures. While other cultures sometimes opt to use the symbology of water in more abstract forms, a common ...
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The Majestic Lady

The Majestic Lady
Depictions of women are a common feature of tattoos around the globe. Traditionally in the West they are often drawn in a burlesque style as well as mermaids being popular among sailors. Within Japan depictions of females takes on a different form. Historically, there are two common female tattoo ...
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Japan’s Fleeting Beauty

Japan’s Fleeting Beauty
Flora and fauna are widely used within Japanese tattoos, enhancing the design and framing the main image, often overlooked and only appreciated for their visual impact. In Western cultures we also see this use of plants in design, with different plants holding deeper meaning for different ...
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The Beautiful and Shrewd Fox

The Beautiful and Shrewd Fox
Japanese folklore is rich in stories of creatures, real and mythical, that come to life in tattoo designs. While dragons, tigers, and koi fish are some of the most popular choices for symbolism, none can match the mysterious aura of the fox. Depicting a Japanese fox in a tattoo can be quite tricky ...
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Firemen and Tattoos in Japanese Woodblock Prints

Firemen and Tattoos in Japanese Woodblock Prints
Back in the 17th and up to the 19th century, the city of Edo (today’s Tokyo) was under constant threat of fire. Closely built houses were made of highly flammable materials and the presence of candles, paper lanterns, charcoal braziers and open stoves added to the danger. Frequent earthquakes, ...
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Dragons in Japanese Tattoos and the Oyama Pilgrimage

Dragons in Japanese Tattoos and the Oyama Pilgrimage
In Edo-period Japan (1603 – 1868), dragons had special importance for ‘hikeshi’ (firemen), as they were seen as creatures of the sea and therefore not being affected by fire. In Japanese belief, dragons are associated with koi fish. Legend says that a koi fish’s ability to swim upstream ...
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