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Paper: “Japanese Woodblock Printing and the Art of Travel in Edo Period Japan”
The position Japanese woodblock played in the urban culture of Edo period Japan is well-known. An extension of this role was the part played by woodblock in the travel boom which hit Japan during its years of isolation from the outside world which lasted until 1868. During this time travel extended to all classes and took the form of pilgrimage, both official and unofficial, leisure and government business.
The main highways of Japan (especially the Tokaido) became the focus of extraordinary cultural attention, mostly mediated through print. As well as the familiar views by such artists as Hiroshige and Hokusai, other woodblock-printed artifacts contributed to the insatiable appetite for information.
In this paper I will look at the role played by woodblock in two main travel-related areas. One area is practical applications of the medium for the production of maps, both useful and imaginative and guidebooks and gazetteers showing famous beauty spots as well as offering advice for the wary traveler. In addition I will highlight the literary contributions of this genre. A second area is the religious use of this woodblock prints. Examples include the pilgrimage custom of senjafuda - woodblock-printed votive slips. I will look at the historical origins of this practice in the eleventh century and trace their development through to the present day. An overview will be given of historical and contemporary examples of fuda as well as carvers and printers involved today in their production.
Through a focus on these two areas, my paper will illustrate the close link between the unprecedented boom in popular travel and woodblock print in Edo period Japan. My paper will also offer a historical background for considering the value and meaning of Japanese woodblock printing methods for contemporary artists.
REBECCA SALTER is an independent artist, a research fellow and in addition visiting lecturer at Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts, London and the University of Brighton. Salter is also an Associate Research Fellow of TrAIN (Transnational Art, Identity and Nation) Research Centre, University of the Arts, London. She worked and studied in Japan for six years, learning Japanese woodblock from the eminent printmaker and artist, Kurosaki Akira. She exhibits regularly in the UK, USA, Japan and Germany and has work in many collections including the British Museum, Library of Congress and the Yale Center for British Art. She contributes regularly to Printmaking Today magazine and holds workshops and demonstrations of Japanese woodblock. In 2001 she published Japanese Woodblock Printing - a practical guide to the technique in the A&C Black Ltd. Printmaking Handbook Series. A second book introducing Japanese woodblock ephemera is due for publication in 2006. See her web site at: www.rebeccasalter.com.