Acclaimed woodblock artist Kenji Takenaka was in town last week to hold a Honolulu Printmakers workshop at the Manoa Heritage Center, do a printing demonstration for HoMA Collectors and Fellows members, and teach a class at the University of Hawai‘i. Woodblock printing is in his blood—he is the fifth generation master at the Takenaka Mokuhan (aka Takenaka Woodblock Print Studio) established in 1891 in Kyoto. He studied under his father, renowned master printer Seihachi Takenaka.
Kenji launched Takezasado, a design company dedicated to preserving the art of woodblock printing as well as further developing it. Before his visit to the Honolulu Museum of Art, he proposed a project based on HoMA’s print of Utagawa Hiroshige’s influential ukiyo-e print Plum Estate, Kameido. “Your collection contains not only the first one, but also a different colored version” that is unique, states the proposal. Kenji finds HoMA’s print so interesting that he wanted to reproduce it, using woodblocks carved by his apprentices, with the goal of making new discoveries about the art.
He is no stranger to collaborating with museums—for example, in 2015, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France granted Kenji permission to make prints using its 200-year-old Japanese woodblocks, and in 2001 he made prints using the Watanabe Museum’s 18th-century woodblocks designed by Kitagawa Utamaro. And in 2007, Kenji held a workshop in carving and printing at the Honolulu Museum of Art School.
Kenji created the Hiroshige reproduction prints in Kyoto, using Hōshō-shi paper made by ninth-generation master and Living National Treasure of Japan Ichibei Iwano. A single sheet of his paper can cost up to $120.
The resulting prints, about six percent larger than Hiroshige’s originals, are stunning, and a limited number are now available in the Museum Shop. The HoMA stamp is on the back, noting it is a new reproduction by Takezasado.
Takezasado prints of Hiroshige’s Plum Estate: $300
Museum Shop: 532-8703