Why Collect Woodblock Prints?

Why Collect Woodblock Prints?

I am often asked "why collect woodblock prints?"

Why do we collect anything? because we like it - it means something to us we have an emotional attachment to it, and/or because it has some type of value. Collecting Japanese woodblock prints is no different. First it really helps to have an affinity for Japan, it’s people, customs, history, etc. Next to have an appreciation for art, for design, style and composition.

(To watch a video of this blog click on the video below)

 Here are a few amazing things about the genre of Japanese woodblock prints in particular:

  1. There are prints for every sensibility. Do you like birds, landscapes, beautiful women, samurai, ghosts, tattoos, fish, sex, violence, history? These are just some of the many many topics you’ll find. And you won’t just find a few prints, you’ll find hundreds or thousands of prints created by different artists over a few hundred years span.
  2. You can own an original - I mean original print that was printed in Japan 200 years ago, for the price of 50 starbucks coffees, or a couple of tickets to Disneyland. These are thin paper prints that made it through 2 world wars, massive floods, fires, and earthquakes, prints that survived the hot humid weather of Japan and passed from generation to generation to end up in your living room, bedroom, or office. 
  3. The woodblock print medium is quite unique. It involves carving multiple blocks of wood by hand. The blocks are then individually inked with the appropriate colors. Finally, handmade paper is pressed against the blocks, one after the other, to achieve a multicolor print.


Some benefits of collecting prints are:

Collecting prints gives you an opportunity to expand your knowledge. You can learn about history, legends and tales, you can learn about the artists:

  • Did you know that Kunichika (one of my favorite artists) was a drunk and womanizer?
  • Did you know that Hiroshige started art at age 14 and his landscapes influenced Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Did you know that Hokusai the artist of the great wave and red fuji was struck by lightening at the age of 50. And over his lifetime he produced over 30,000 designs.

Let’s not forget the value. The print you buy today is one of a very limited edition. Even the reprints are limited. So not only do you have a piece of beautiful original art, you have an investment that will most likely appreciate in value. 

So now you may be wondering Where can you buy a Japanese woodblock print? So many places, ranging from eBay to hundreds of galleries,  like this one, auction houses, and even direct from Japan. There are tons of resources online that have excellent information to help first time buyers.

So what are next steps?  go online and do a search for Japanese woodblock prints, see what you find.  Good luck, and happy collecting.

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