Kato Publisher's "Fan Prints" by Hasui

During the early 1930's, publisher Kato Junji of Tokyo (active 1930-53) published twelve unusual woodblock designs by artist Kawase Hasui, showing landscapes and famous places throughout Japan. These uniquely beautiful prints, however, were not made in the traditional "oban" format, but instead in a seldom seen "shikishiban" format (almost square, about 24 cm x 25 cm, or 9 3/8 x 9 7/8 inches) which is typically used for paintings on a heavy cardboard with a golden trim. Their reason? These prints had been commissioned by the Heibara Fan Shop (also of Tokyo) to be used as decorative "fan prints."

Our knowledge about these prints is somewhat limited, however it is known that the first edition by Kato was 200 prints, marked by a red "limited edition" stamp indicating this on each print's verso. (Seen to the left is such a seal, from an early #135/200 copy of "Rain at Okutama River," #KA-11.)

Probably any additional versions--if indeed any were made at all during the pre-War period--do not likely bear such a "limited edition" stamp.

Referenced by Narazaki (with a similar listing in Merritt & Yamada) these twelve designs are universally designated by the following numbering system:

1. Morning at Takamatsu                                            KA-1

2. Himeji Castle                                                          KA-2

3. Seven Miles Beach                                                 KA-3

4. Sarusawa Pond                                                      KA-4

5. Moon at Matsushima                                              KA-5

6. After Snow at Mijajima                                          KA-6

7. Kegon Waterfall, Nikko                                         KA-7

8. Nishikigaura, Atami                                                KA-8

9. Evening Snow at Kinkakuji                                     KA-9

10. Towada Lake                                                       KA-10

11. Okutama River in Rain                                          KA-11

12. Dawn at Mt. Fuji                                                  KA-12

The "KA numbers" are those as in the Narazaki reference, and it should be further noted that Narazaki shows only b/w images of these prints.




Morning at Takamatsu

Himeji Castle

Seven Mile Beach





Sarusawa Pond

Moon at Matsushima

After Snow at Mijajima




Kegon Waterfall, Nikko

Nishikigaura, Atami

Evening Snow at Kinkakuji




Towada Lake

Okutama River in Rain

Dawn at Mt. Fuji  

All images shown here are reprints, except KA-4, which is an original version (image courtesy of Robin Devereux of Hanga.com)


All twelve of these rarely seen designs have been published again in "Showa 63," which is 1988, again in a limited edition of 200 prints. As far as we have been able to determine, the daughter of Kawase Hasui commissioned this reprinting, with the printing was done under the supervision of an until-this-time-unknown publisher "Tokyo Takahashi Kobo", which means "Tokyo Takahashi (name) Printing Association." All prints bear this publisher's seal on in their right lower margin.

We do not know at this time whether Takahashi Kobo Publisher is still active today and, if perhaps, designs of other artists have been published by them.

Collectors should note that both the upper and the right margins of these 1988 reprints are extremely wide, with the publisher's seal being quite "distant" from the image's edge, potentially giving unscrupulous sellers the possibility to trim this margin, with the effect of having this "newer" seal removed. Therefore, buyers should carefully examine any Kato print for this possibility if any doubt exists.

The wear and tear of the blocks, particularly being seen at the lower left corner close to the "kento mark," probably is reasonable proof that the original blocks were used for this later set of prints, however, a bit of additional research will be necessary before making that final confirmation.

© Dr. Andreas Grund (with editing by Thomas Crossland) 2002

For questions about Japanese woodblock prints, please email us at Ukiyoe Gallery, or call us at (541) 758-1752.

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