Hokusai’s Book World—An Unknown Domain of Woodblock Printed Books

  • Exhibition
  • Finished

Hokusai’s Book World—An Unknown Domain of Woodblock Printed Books

September 21, 2022(Wed.) - November 27, 2022(Sun.)
September 21 - November 27
1st term: Sep 21 - Oct 23
2nd term: Oct 25 - Nov 27
9:30-17:30 (last admission 17:00)
Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday).
*Open: Mon / holiday,Oct 10 *Close:Tue,Oct 11
Sumida City, The Sumida Hokusai Museum


Exhibition Overview 

The word ukiyo-e probably calls to mind, in most cases, single-sheet prints, as in the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. Their origin lay, however, in woodblocks carved with text and illustrations, then printed and bound as woodblock-printed books. Prints that were only pictures then developed from those books as an independent art form. Hokusai himself produced the illustrations for many of those woodblock-printed books. This exhibition focuses on those books and explores their fascination in four sections.

Exhibition Composition 

Section 1 Woodblock-printed Books: The Basics
Section 2 Topics Concerning Woodblock-printed Books
Section 3 Traces of Collectors and Readers
Section 4 Masterpieces of Woodblock-printed Books

Exhibition Highlights

Hokusai not only created single-sheet polychrome prints but also produced pictures for woodblock printed books. The many books by Hokusai they were published included those in which he illustrated a story as well as his drawing manuals, with collections of his own drawings. Looking at these books, the drawing styles and other techniques that Hokusai and his students devised for these books capture our attention. Moreover, because these books were hand made, even books with the same title differed, depending on the printing, to dive deeper into the world of the woodblock-printed book.

▶ Illustrated drawing manuals
Sketches by Hokusai, the series of illustrated books in which Hokusai depicts almost everything in the world, naturally includes sketches of Edo-period people reading woodblock-printed books. Then and now, relaxing and getting lost in a book is a delight.
Katsushika Hokusai, Sketches by Hokusai, Vol. 8, The Sumida Hokusai Museum (All term)
▶ This book is extremely rare.
Most woodblock-printed books were produced in black and white, printed in black sumi ink, but some were printed in color, like polychrome, nishiki-e, prints. Given the format of the book, we even have examples that have been handed down with their beautiful colors scarcely faded. This book is one of the lavish volumes of satyrical kyōka poems published around the end of the eighteenth century (Kansei and Kyōwa eras, 1789-1804). All the illustrations are two-page spreads in this album-bound book. This book is extremely rare, with only a few copies extant, and is being displayed by our museum for the first time.
Katsushika Hokusai, Sandara Gasumi, The Sumida Hokusai Museum (1st term)
▶ In the later printing, dream or reality?
The first printing, the husbands in her dream are shown against a deep black background, contrasting with the princess in the real world. In the later printing, the printing with deep black ink has been eliminated, so that we cannot tell where the dividing line between dream and reality is.
The first printing
Katsushika Hokusai, Tale of the Craftsman from Hida, Vol. 2, The Sumida Hokusai Museum (All term)
The later printing
Katsushika Hokusai, Newly Published Tale of the Craftsman from Hida, Vol. 4, The Sumida Hokusai Museum (All term)
▶ Books like a picture scroll
What is remarkable is that the pictures on each of the pages connect, as in a picture scroll. In this exhibition, we display pages from three copies of the first volume, lining them up to show the flow of the images.
Katsushika Hokusai, Picture Book of the Sumida River-Both banks at a Glance, Vol.1, The Sumida Hokusai Museum (1st term)
Katsushika Hokusai, Picture Book of the Sumida River-Both banks at a Glance, Vol.1, The Sumida Hokusai Museum (2nd term)

List of Works


Admission Fees

65 and over
J.H.S. student
Disabled people
E.S. student
  • Not available for advance tickets and group discounts.
  • Junior high, high school, and university students (including technical college, vocational school, and special training college students) will be requested to show student ID.
  • Adults 65 and over will be requested to show a document verifying age.
  • Persons with a certificate such as the following plus one accompanying person are admitted at a discount charge: physical disability, intellectual disability, rehabilitation, mentally handicapped health and welfare, atomic bomb victim health notebook, etc. (Please show your certificate at time of admission.)
  • Use of these tickets is limited to the day on which the exhibition is visited and allows you to see AURORA (Permanent Exhibition Room) and Exhibition Plus Room, too.


Access Map...here
  • 5-minute walk from Toei Oedo Line Ryogoku Station A3 exit.
  • 9-minute walk from JR Sobu Line Ryogoku Station East exit.
  • 5-minute by Sumida Loop Bus from the JR Sobu Line Kinshicho Station North exit. Get off at the “The Sumida Hokusai Museum (Tsugaruke kamiyasiki ato) Stop”. 

The Sumida Hokusai Museum measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19

 Visitor Guidelines: Health and Safety During Your Visit for Keeping us All Safe 
 All visitors are required to...here.​
 Please check The Sumida Hokusai Museum's official website for details before visiting.