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Osaka Prints (Kamigata-e)

Discussions on selected Osaka-e can be found below at Kamigata-e Links.

Hokuei DetailThere were two distinct regional styles of traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking, the dominant Edo school (Edo was the former name for Tokyo) and the Kamigata-style (for the region including the cities of Osaka and Kyoto — see Kamigata-e Links below).

The most obvious difference involved the range of subject matter. Edo prints (Edo-e) included beautiful women, geisha, courtesans, young lovers, erotica, domestic scenes, cityscapes, landscapes, nature scenes (especially birds and flowers), actors, military scenes, historical allegories, parodies, ghosts and demons, genre scenes, and still life. In stark contrast to this wide variety of subjects, Kamigata prints (kamigata-e) portrayed actors almost exclusively.

The two regional styles of actor prints (yakusha-e) were derived, in part, from different methods of acting. The great Ichikawa Danjûrô I (1660-1704) created the aragoto ("wild business") manner of Edo acting, which involved tales of bravado and heroism that seemed well suited to the temperament of Edo, the center of shogunate and military power since 1603. In contrast, Sakata Tôjûrô I (1647-1709) developed an acting methodology that combined a gentle sensuousness with an amusing helplessness that became a standard for wagoto ("soft style") acting in Osaka, the mercantile center of Japan.

Both styles of play writing and acting were found in Edo and Kamigata, and certain stage characters were especially popular because they were performed with a mixture of the two styles. Nevertheless, the tendencies in each region were evident and were generally reflected in their printmaking.

There were other differences between the two domains. Among these was the sheer volume of the Edo prinmaking industry — prints from Edo outnumbered those published in Osaka by a margin of at least 20 to 1. In addition, quite a number of Edo artists were able to make their living primarily from their printmaking, whereas in Osaka a tiny handful of artists were able to do so. The "amateur" status of the highly skilled Osaka designers, coupled with the small number of prints, made for a unique genre of printmaking. ©1999-2001 by John Fiorillo

In addition to the links below, more information can be found at


Kamigata-e Links

A few examples of works spanning nearly 75 years of Osaka printmaking are presented at the links below. There are additional examples of Osaka prints on the Topics page: Shigeharu and Hokuei (Hayagawari) and Utagawa Kunihiro (Onagori kyôgen).

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