Hasui's "Azuma Gorge" - One Print - Two Dates of Origin?


Usually a woodblock print carries the date of its creation in its margin, giving us clear proof when the print was designed or the
blocks got carved. However, surprisingly we have found an example where one and the same exists in two versions with different
dates, in our case "Showa 18" (1943) and "Showa 22" (1947), separated at least by a time span of four years.

The print is by Kawase Hasui and shows the beautiful autumn landscape of the Azuma Gorge, deep blue running water, framed by
yellow and red autumn leaves. Narazaki as well as Merritt & Yamada both date this print back into 1943 (Showa 18).

Surprisingly the very same prints exists in a "later" version (right image). Now it is dated "Showa nijuni nen saku" -- "Made in Showa 22"
(1947). The printer seal is not present, only the 6mm round seal gives evidence of the Watanabe publishing house.

The earlier edition (left image) is dated "Showa juhachinen saku" -- "Made in Showa 18" (1943). In addition, a boxed seal of the printer "Suri" Ono Gintaro, one of Watanabe's master printer is stamped onto the margin, furthermore, a round black 6mm Watanabe seal is in the lower left corner within the imprinted area. It is known that Ono's printer seal (known as an "I seal") was in use during and shortly after the War instead of a Watanabe publisher's seal.


The round black 6mm Watanabe seals in the left lower part of both prints are hardly visible against their dark backgrounds.

Showa 18

Showa 22


 It is not clear whether for both editions an identical set of blocks was used. The missing of fine strong lines, slightly different coloring
schemes makes an exact and reliable comparison very difficult. However, at least we can say that the keyblock and probably some
others were the same.


In both cases the keyblock shows a slight damages, e.g., here at the left margin a part of approx. 2mm is missing, an indication that the keyblock for the Showa 18 and Showa 22 edition is the same except for the writing.

The fine details, printed in grey / green seem to be identical, although the block of the Showa 22 edition shows some wear already.

The "registration" of the blocks is poor in both cases.

Showa 18

Showa 22


 (Photos of the Showa 18 version are courtesy of Mr. Nakajima of Shobisha, Tokyo.)

At this time, we do not know the background of this finding, therefore, any input which helps to explain this mystery would be appreciated.

Update -- August 20, 2004

Thanks to the viewership of one of our readers (Jon Lewis), we recently received an email exchange between himself and Shoichiro Watanabe (the present day owner of the S. Watanabe Color Print Company, and grandson of founder Shozaburo Watanabe) which seems to offer a somewhat reasonable explanation as to why this single Hasui print image, "Azuma Gorge," exists with two DIFFERENTLY "margin-dated" states (both 1943 and 1947).

As he was himself curious about how and why this "double-dating" could happen, this reader simply and directly asked this question of Shoichiro Watanabe. (Gosh...... we're wondering now...... Why didn't we think to do that??) Here is the pertinent portion of his email to Shoichiro Watanabe:

".....I also wondered about the date, as "Agatsuma (Azuma) Gorge" is listed as being carved in 1943, but is the date on the print margin 1947?"

Here then is Shoichiro's somewhat longer, explanatory reply:

"Azuma Gorge is located in Saitama Prefecture and is very small. Agatsuma Gorge is located in Gunma Prefecture(north of Saitama Pref.) and is very big. Hasui had traveled to Agatsuma but not to Azuma. (The note of the "Complete (Hasui) Catalogue" by Hotei Publishing is wrong.)"

"In 1943, S. WATANABE CO. finished the test printings (only a few copies) for this design. As you know, in 1943, toward the end of the World War II, S. WATANABE CO. lacked for the paper and all the materials for printings. In addition, printers had to go to War. So we could not do it at all."

"We could made printings of this on 1947 at last, 2 years after WWII. So there are two types of the date (1943 and 1947). Therefore, the prints dated 1943 is quite few."

"Although our new "atozuri" (posthumous printing from original blocks) print is dated "Showa 22 nen" (1947), we do say this is dated 1943 the same as in the "Complete (Hasui) Catalogue" by Hotei."

"If any question, please ask me again. I will do my best to answer you."


Shoichiro Watanabe

To clarify further then, in the words of our contributor, "I would add an explanation of Shoichiro's comment about the difference in the name of the print in the Hotei catalogue and the actual name of the print in the Watanabe inventory. Hasui never visited Azuma Gorge, and the print is actually of Agatsuma Gorge. As Shoichiro notes, Hotei got the name wrong. So what we have is a print with two different dates AND two different names!"

Thanks then to our thoughtful reader, at least in this case, it seems the mystery as to the true dating of this "Azuma Gorge" print has now been answered.

And--as always--we are appreciative to our audience for both their readership and their input.

Literature and sources used in preparation of this article include:

Above photos of the "Showa 18" version are courtesy of Mr. Nakajima (of Shobisha Publisher, Tokyo)

Above documented email exchange with Shoichiro Watanabe (of S. Watanabe Color Print Company) courtesty of: Jon Lewis

(c) Andreas Grund and Thomas Crossland -- May 2003 and August 2004

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