What would Hokusai have thought of Martin Sharp's fine tribute?
Take the ukiyo-e series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei) that includes the iconic prints The Great Wave off Kanagawa and Red Fuji. Under the supervision of a publisher, the original series was designed by Katsushika Hokusai and produced in collaboration with a team of woodblock carvers and printers between 1826-1833 in the latter years of the Edo period. Reproducing such canonical ukiyo-e series constitutes one mainstay that keeps the shingle hanging outside traditional Japanese woodblock printing workshops like Satō’s. Reprints of Hokusai’s Fuji series are sought not simply to satisfy enduring consumer demand for the visual frames that merge landmark, landscape and daily life, but also as manifestations of the virtuoso display of woodblock techniques that reached their apex in Hokusai’s era: the multitude of straight and curving hairpin-thin lines carved in relief; the layering of primary-color pigments printed as many as 20 times over to achieve different hues, tones and degrees of saturation; gradations of color finessed through various styles of the technique known as bokashi, among others.
Commercially speaking, Satō Keizō maintains a sharp distinction between ukiyo-e reproductions divided between two broad categories: fukuseiban, literally “re-manufactured prints” implying machine production, and fukkokuban, whose expression swaps “manufacture” with the Chinese character for “carve” (koku) to generate something like a “re-carved print.” Satō believes that the presence of the human hand in the latter expression indicates a genuine remaking of the original imprint, and he and his team of three printers produce high-quality, exclusive reprint editions referred to as fukkokuban for their Tokyo and Kyoto publishers.