The brilliant moonlight in sharp relief
Under the Tempo Reforms introduced by the Shogunate, Kabuki was seen as affront to public morals, and the entire shibai-machi theatre district was banished to the north of Sensoji Temple on the outskirts of the city. However, the relocated shibai-machi flourished even more than before, no doubt aided by its proximity to the Yoshiwara red light district. The place name "Saruwaka-machi" is said to have been taken from Kanzaburo Saruwaka, one the founders of Kabuki.
* The techniques and methods used to produce this work have remained unchanged since the Edo period. The Edo Woodblock brand of traditional multi-colour woodblock prints has been recognized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as a Nationally Designated Traditional Craft Product and a Tokyo Traditional Craft Product.
Founded during the Ansei period (1854-1860), Takahashi Kobo has been making woodblock prints for approximately 160 years, since the Edo period (1603-1867). Originally working as Surishi (the artisans who colour the woodblocks and print the final image) on Edo woodblock prints, the Takahashi family began publishing prints after their fourth generation took over. "The work of woodblock printing is the root of Japanese printing. From temple school textbooks to ukiyo-e prints and wrapping paper, Japanese printing has always been supported by the technique of woodblock printing," says Yukiko Takahashi, the sixth generation of the Takahashi family.
During the Edo period, ukiyo-e prints served the purpose of informative magazines. For example, in the image of a beautiful woman, fashion trends of the time such as the design of the kimono and furniture, hairstyle, and hand fan, were all depicted in meticulous detail. The artistic value of ukiyo-e is such that it is now recognized globally.
Currently, Takahashi Kobo prints a wide variety of themes using woodblock, from traditional ukiyo-e to modern art. Furthermore, Takahashi produces merchandise sold at museum exhibitions and also holds lectures, demonstrations, and workshops by artisans at museums and schools. Such initiatives, which give new life to the culture of Edo woodblock prints by sharing and experiencing of the history and techniques associated them, have been highly popular and more and more offers have been coming from overseas recently, such as from Paris and London.
However, Takahashi says, "Ukiyo-e prints remain the base of woodblock prints. As we make use of this rich tradition and culture, I would like to use all five senses to capture current trends, embody them, and use them to produce works that suit contemporary lifestyles."