Suzuki Harunobu (about 1724-70), 'Parading Courtesan with Attendants', Late 1760, Nishiki-e (brocade print) V&A Museum no. E.1416-1898[1]

Nishiki-e (錦絵 nishiki-e?) (lit. "brocade picture") refers to Japanese multi-colored woodblock printing; this technique is used primarily in ukiyo-e. It was invented in the 1760s, and perfected and popularized by the printmaker Suzuki Harunobu, who produced a great many nishiki-e prints between 1765 and his death five years later.

Previously, most prints had been in black-and-white, colored by hand, or colored with the addition of one or two color ink blocks. A nishiki-e print is created by carving a separate woodblock for every color, and using them in a stepwise fashion. An engraver by the name of Kinroku is credited with the technical innovations that allowed so many blocks of separate colors to fit perfectly onto the page where they ought to, relative to one another, in order to create a single complete image.

This style and technique is also known as Edo-e (江戸絵 edo-e?), referring to Edo, the capital city of the time.


Nishiki-e in Meiji era

In the Meiji period, various nishiki-e illustrated new fashions, imported goods, events, the railroad, and other new topics. "Newspaper Nishiki-e" (新聞錦絵, shinbun nishiki-e) were very popular among the public during this period. Print designers created nishiki-e on topics picked up from the newspapers such as Tokyo Nichinichi shinbun or Yūbin Hochi shinbun. [2]



  • Munsterberg, Hugo (1957). "The Arts of Japan: An Illustrated History." Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company.
  • Paine, Robert Treat and Alexander Soper (1955). "The Art and Architecture of Japan." New Haven: Yale University Press.

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