Kajita Hankichi

a Meiji-era 'kuchi-e'

Colour woodcut, c.1890

This is a typical representative of a 'kuchi-e', a print given away as a 'freebie' stuck inside the front of a magazine of the Meiji era. A freebie it might be, but the level of carving and printing skill used in its production is nothing short of breathtaking.

There is now not a man alive on this planet who can carve lines like those on this print. I want to get this good ... but it's only in my dreams that I allow myself to believe that I will ever make it. In the cold light of day, I have to face the fact that it just isn't going to be possible. Whoever carved this print (we don't even know his name!) started out at about 10 years old, worked seven days a week under an incredibly strict regimen, for decade after decade after decade. And he certainly didn't sit there fooling around with his Macintosh for hours a day. Of course he was a good carver - he was a carver!