aragoto 荒事 - a kabuki bombastic style exaggerating all the aspects of the role (acting, wig, make-up, costumes, dialogues, oversized swords) to portray valiant warriors, fierce gods or demons. It is the opposite style of the soft wagoto.  It is sometimes referred to in English as the "rough-stuff" style.

aratame - single seal on a print containing the character aratame 改, "inspected," which was often used in conjunction with (or incorporated inside) the date seal.  The requirements for censor or inspection seals was eliminated in 1875. (Also see kiwame.)

bakufu 幕府 - military government of the shogun.

baren front

baren back

baren 馬連 - flat circular convex printing tool believed to  have been originally introduced from China.  The baren is used on the back of the paper to transfer the image from the inked block onto the paper.  The technique whereby the baren marks are emphasized intentionally is known as baren-sujizuri.  While modern baren are made of various materials, the traditional baren consists of an inner core of tightly twisted and coiled strips of bamboo sheath sandwiched between a back plate consisting of a laminate of thin kozo paper and cover of bamboo sheath.

bijin-ga 美人画 - pictures of beautiful women.  This term was originally gender neutral but by the second half of the 18th century it was mainly used for women.

bokashi ぼかし - a gradual gradation of colored ink achieved during the printing of woodblock prints by varying the application of ink to the block from light to dark.

budōgoto 武道事 - roles or things related to the warrior class.

bunmei kaika-e 文明開化絵 (civilization and modernization pictures) - bunmei kaika was the Meiji government's slogan for the introduction of Western science, culture and ideology after the Meiji-Restoration of 1868.  The incorporation of many of these Western ideas and things into the Japanese lifestyle often made for amusing results and bunmei kaika-e often made fun of the results. One typical example is the combination of Western and Japanese fashion elements as Western skirts worn with Japanese shoes or Japanese kimonos worn with Western hats and accessories etc. (also see kaika-e and Yohohama-e.)

bunjinga 文人画 - Chinese literati painting.

bunraku 文楽 - a traditional Japanese puppet theater, combining jōruri chanting and puppetry. 

Bunten 文 展 - an abbreviation for Monbusho Bijutsu Tenrankai (Exhibition of Fine Arts by the Ministry of Education), the Ministry's annual art exhibition, which started in 1907 and ran until 1918.  It was the equivalent of the official exhibitions of nineteenth century Europe and the route to recognition and financial success. It showcased Japanese-style painting, western-style painting, and sculpture. (see also Teiten its 1919 successor.)

chirimen-e 縮緬絵 ("crêped" print) - introduced around 1860, finished prints (created by the usual woodblock print process) are rolled around a bar and then rubbed to give it crinkles and creases as if it had been printed on crepe silk (chirimen 縮緬). This treatment causes the print to shrink to about two thirds of its original size, as a result of which lines take on special characteristics and the colors darken.

daimyō 大名 - feudal regional lord.

dōjin 同人 - The Japanese word dōjin (also dōnin) has two meanings: 'the same person' and 'a group of people who share the same objective or aspiration'. The term dojin zasshi (magazine) was derived from the second meaning, referring to magazines published by such groups.

Edokko 江戸っ子 ("child of Edo") - someone whose family has lived in Edo for three generations. Characterized by a boisterous, quick-tempered nature; proud, daring and loose with his money so that he "never let the sun rise on his earnings."

e-goyomi 絵暦 - pictorial calendar; illustration containing clues to the long and short months of the year

ehon 絵本 - woodblock-printed picture books.

fūkei-ga 風景画 - landscape or cityscape pictures.  Landscape was not considered a typical subject for early ukiyo-e until the early 1720s.  Landscape often served as a backdrop and emerged as a separate genre in the later 18th century.

fukeoyama 老女方 - actor specialized in old women roles.

fukeyaku 老役 - old people roles. The actors playing female fukeyaku roles are called fukeoyama. The actors playing male fukeyaku roles are called oyajigata.

fukurotoji 袋綴 ("pouch-binding") - The most common type of book-binding in Japan, made of thin sheets of paper which are inscribed or printed on only one side, folded in half, text/image side out, and stacked together. Covers are added to the front and back, and the book is stitched along the spine (the edges opposite the folds) so that each double-leaved page forms a pouch, fukuro 袋, which is open at the top and bottom. Although variations exist, typically four tiny holes are made at equidistant lengths along the spine edge and the sheets and covers are then bound together tightly with thread.

fukuseiga 複製画 (fukusei hanga) - reproduction print.  A somewhat confusing term in that it is used both for woodblock print copies after original ukiyo-e and woodblock prints modeled after paintings, watercolors or drawings not otherwise intended for the print medium.

fūzokuga 風俗画 – pictures of manners and customs.



ga - when signing their works, artists frequently attached the suffix ga 画 (drawn by) or gakō 画稿 (designed by) to their signatures.

gadan 画壇 - art establishment.

gafu 画譜 - picture book or album.

gagō 雅号 - art or studio name.  Also seen as gō.

geimei 芸名 -  Usually used when referring to an actor's or entertainer's stage name.

geisha 芸者 - literally, "art person". A female performer specializing in entertaining and providing companionship to men at dinner parties. They are skilled in classic Japanese arts, such as music (esp. samisen), poetry and calligraphy.

- artist name.  An individual's name other than real name (honmei) or nickname (azana).  In the case of artists one character of the teacher's name was passed on to the student to create a gagō or art name.  Print designers could and did periodically change gagō.

gofun 胡粉 - "shell white" made of calcium carbonate powder obtained by heating and pulverizing the shells of oysters and clams.  In woodblock prints, gofun was sometimes rubbed directly on the picture surface, or sprinkled to give the effect of falling snow.  This technique is called gofun-chirashi (shell white spattering).

gōkan 合巻 - books in which the story was written as a series of pamphlets liberally illustrated with woodblock prints and then bound as a single volume.

haiku 俳句 - a short poem in seventeen syllables, usually arranged in three 5-7-5 syllable phrases, often capturing a mood or feeling.

haimyō 俳名 - literary name of a kabuki actor.

Exhibition Hall of the Hakubakai, 1903

Hakubakai 白馬会 (White Horse Society, 1896-1915) - founded in 1896 by the painter Kuroda Seiki for the promotion and exhibition of works influenced by the French academic and Impressionist plein-air painting styles he had encountered while abroad. It was a rival to the conservative Meiji Art Society which also promoted Western style painting.  Kuroda's White Horse Society is credited with changing the whole Japanese approach to Western art.

hanamichi 花道 - literally the "flower path" it is one of the key features of kabuki: the walkway, perpendicular to the stage, on the left side of the theater, linking the back of the theater to the stage through the audience, used by actors for entrance or exit.

hanga 版画 - the general term for a print, first used in 1905 in the magazine Heitan which was founded by Yamamoto Kanae (1882-1946), Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958) and a few others.

hanshita-e 版下絵 - a preparatory drawing executed in black ink on thin paper pasted to a woodblock and used to carve the outlines of the design.

harimaze-e 張交絵 - a print containing two or more subjects on a single page, designed to be cut apart and used for ornamenting small screens, etc. 

hashigakari 橋掛 - name for the bridge-like section connecting the main Noh stage protruding into the kensho 見所 and connecting the stage with the kagami no ma 鏡の間. It is not just a walkway, but is also used for example as the metaphorical pathway between the “spirit world,” represented by the offstage area, and the “temporal world,” represented by the main stage.

hikifuda 引札 - advertising prints, often given to customers as New Year gifts, carrying images associated with good luck, fortune and wealth.

hitsu - "brush" or "by the brush of", often used as a suffix in artists' signatures.

- a shortened form of the word hōnoki 朴の木 (a species of Magnolia). is a lightweight wood used as a woodblock in the mokuhan 木版 process.  It is good for small prints, having an easily carved, soft and uniform texture.

hōsho 奉書 - a paper made with mulberry (kōzo) fibers, which are long, pliant, absorbent, and strong. Kizuki hōsho were traditionally used for ukiyo-e. It was the preferred paper for many sosaku hanga artists.

Ichimoku-kai 一木会 (The First Thursday Society) -  crucial to the postwar revival of Japanese prints, was formed in 1939 by the group of people who gathered in the house of Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955) in Tokyo. The group met once a month to discuss print related issues.  It was considered the core of the sosaku hanga movement up until its demise in 1950.

ichiranzu 一覧図 - panoramic view prints.

Inten 院展 - an annual painting exhibition organized by the Saiko Nihon Bijutsu-in (Reorganized Japan Art Institute.)  In 1914, a group of artists led by Yokoyama Taikan 横山大観 (1868-1958) revived the Japan Art Institute, originally founded in 1898 by Okakura Tenshin 岡倉 天心 (1863-1913), into the Saiko Nihon Bijutsu-in.  

itame mokuhan 板目木版 (literally "imitation woodgrain") - a tightly grained piece of wood is allowed to soak in water and then used like any other printing block.

jidaimono 時代物 - historical drama.

jitsuaku 実悪 - subdivision of katakiyaku 敵役; an evil conspirator or cruel villain.

jitsugotoshi 實事師 - subdivision of tachiyaku 立役; a jitsugotoshi is a wise, righteous and clever man, who appears on stage at the right time to set the record straight, to solve an enigma or foil an evil plot.

jo-no-mai 序之舞 - a dance performed in the introduction to a Noh play.

jōruri 浄瑠璃 - a type of sung narrative with shamisen accompaniment, typically found in bunraku, a traditional Japanese puppet theater.

kabuki 歌舞伎 - a traditional Japanese form of theater with its origins in the Edo period. In contrast to the older Japanese art forms such as Noh, kabuki was the popular culture of the common townspeople and not of the higher social classes.

kachō-e 花鳥絵 (or kachō-ga 花鳥 ) - prints of birds and flowers.

kagami no ma 鏡の間 (mirror room) - the area just beyond the curtain where the performers gather and prepare themselves before a noh play. The main actor (shite) puts on his mask in front of the large mirror in this room. While the kagami no ma is located on the far side of the curtain, the stage continues into the room, and the performers consider it part of the stage.

kaika-e 開化絵 - pictures of modernization that focused on advances (i.e. Westernization) in government, industry, architecture and science.

Kamigata 上方 - The kabuki of Kamigata (old expression used for the Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe-Nara region). The Kamigata kabuki main feature is the wagoto style. Nowadays, there are only a few Kamigata actors, led by the star Nakamura Ganjirō and his two sons Senjaku and Kanjaku. The others famous Kamigata actors are Kataoka Hidetarō, Bandō Takesaburō and Kamimura Kichiya, who are still living in the city of Osaka. Some actors like Kataoka Nizaemon, Kataoka Gatō or Nakamura Tomijūrō, born and educated in Tokyo, living in Tokyo, are also related to Kamigata kabuki because of their lineage.

kamuro 禿 - courtesan's maid; female child attendant/apprentice to courtesan 遊女 or 傾国

kamusō ("clerics of emptiness") - mendicant Zen monk, or a person so dressed as a disguise

kano - academic painting tradition originating in Chinese ink painting and flourishing in Japan from the late fifteenth century onward.  The Kano school became the official painting school of the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo period (1603-1868).

Kanga-kai - an association of artists, founded in 1881 by Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908), Okakura Kakuzō (1863-1913) and several others, dedicated to saving traditional Japanese painting.

kanteiryū - the unique calligraphic style of the "Kantei school," which came to represent Edo kabuki. It was used on kanban, banzuke, play scripts and

woodblock prints. It uses thick, rounded brushstrokes, with so few spaces it is sometimes nearly unreadable.

kaō 花押 - a stylized signature or mark​

karazuri - embossing or blind printing without ink. Also known as gauffrage.

kataIn kabuki a set of stylized forms designed for one specific role and transmitted from generation to generation. 

katakiyaku 敵役 - actor specialized in villain roles.

katsureki (Plays of Living History) - new genre of jidaimono dramas, created by the star Ichikawa Danjūrō IX during the Meiji era. These plays were enactments of historical incidents performed in every detail with all the accuracy that extensive research could reveal.

kentō - the registration marks (one right angle, into which the corner of the paper fits, and one straight one, along one of the adjoining edges) used to ensure registration of the different colors in multi-color woodblock prints. 

keyblock - first block carved in the process of creating a woodblock print; it prints the black outlines, and prints pulled from this block are used in the creation of the blocks for printing the colors.

kibyōshi 黄表紙 - literally "yellow cover". Popular Edo literature of late 18th century. Illustrated books with humorous, irreverent stories.   

kirazuri - printing with mica dust.

Kisokaidō - The inland route, also called the Nakasendō, stretching from Nihonbashi to Edo to Kyoto with 69 post-town, or stations, in between. (also see Tōkaidō.)

kiwame - literally, "approved".  A small round censorship seal containing the character 'kiwame 極' (examined) which was supposed to appear on all woodblock prints issued during the period 1791-1842 to indicate that they had passed inspection by officials of the Edo City Magistrate.  (Also see aratame.)

ko-kata - a child actor in a Noh play.

Kokuga-kai (National Painting Association) - founded in Kyoto in 1918 by Japanese-style painters Chikukyō Ono (1889-1979), Tsuchida Bakusen (1887-1936), Kagaku Murakami (1888-1939), Banka Nonagase (1889-1964), Shiho Sakakibara (1887-1971), and Irie Hakō (1887-1948). It was founded on the principle that artists should have complete freedom of expression. In 1925 a Western-style painting section was added and in 1928 all the Japanese-style painters withdrew.  The organization also has print, sculpture, craft and photography sections and is still active.  Also known as kokuten.

Kokuga sosaku kyokai (National Painting Creative Association) - forerunner of Kokuga-kai.

Kokumin Bijutsu Kyokai [The People's (or Citizen's) Art Society] -  formed in 1913 by Western-style oil painters.  It sought to be an amalgamation of all artists throughout Japan, regardless of the style and the branches of art they follow. It gathered within its fold Western-style and Japanese-style painters, sculptors, literary men, and architects.

kuchi-e 口絵 - woodblock-printed frontispiece illustrations produced for publication in Japanese novels and literary magazines in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Literally, "mouth picture". 

kumogata (cloud shaped) - The use of clouds and mist as highly conventionalized device to separate areas, show time sequence, or indicate distance or emphasis in the long narrative scrolls of the yamato-e tradition.

Kyodokai (Homeland Society) - Organization of Nihonga painters who were students of Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972).

kyōga 狂画 ("crazy pictures”) - term applied to comic paintings and prints.

kyōgen 狂言  - comic short plays that serve as interludes between the serious nō (noh) dramas, together comprising the nōgaku, the Japanese traditional aristocratic theater.

kyōgen - the actors who perform in the kyōgen comedies as described above and actors who appear in Noh plays, commonly telling the story of the play during the interval (ai) in a two-act play.  As such, they are also known as ai-kyōgen or simply as ai. They also sometimes serve as swordbearers, boatmen or perform other action roles in a Noh play.

kyōgō-zuri - proof impression

kyōiku nishiki-e 教育錦絵 - educational color woodblock prints

kyōka 狂歌 - literally "mad verse". 31-syllable comic waka where the humor comes from the juxtaposition of mundane, contemporary content is an elegant, classical context.

literati - The name literati is applied, in China and Japan, to learned men or scholars.  In the field of painting they played a distinctive role in initiating a definite type of landscape painting which developed into the Nanga school of painting.

maejite - in a two-part play, the shite is maejite (“before-shite”) in the first part and nochijite (“after-shite”) in the second.

mamehon 豆本 - "bean" size; miniature print/book format

matsubamemono 松羽目物 - Nō drama or kyōgen ( farce) adapted to kabuki, using a giant pine tree backdrop (matsubame in Japanese) as the main stage setting.

Meiji Bijutsukai (Meiji Fine Arts Society) - Created in 1888 by Yoga painters Asai Chu (1856-1907) and Koyama Shotaro (1857-1916) as a reaction to the conservative Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai (Japan Fine Arts Association).  It staged its first exhibition in 1889, was abolished in 1900 and re-established in 1902 as the Taheiyo Gakai (Pacific Western-style Painting Association) by artist Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) and others.  Its exhibitions had a hanga (print) section.  In 1957 the Taiheiyo Gakai became the Taiheiyo Bijutsukai (Pacific Western-style Art Association).

meisho-e 名所絵 - pictures of famous places, oftenwith literary and historical connections.

mitate-e 見立絵 (literally, "likened") - contemporary recreations of well-known scenes from history or myth, often with a parody in mind.  A complex device within ukiyo-e culture , whereby the people, fashions and customs of the present day were overlaid on figures and incidents from the classical past, thereby creating witty and entertaining juxtapositions.  It can be translated variously as ‘re-working’, ‘parallel’, and sometimes ‘parody.’  The term was also used for the phenomenon of the ‘dream-cast’ or ‘fantasy cast’, imagined depictions of actors in particular roles. 

mokkotsu 没骨 - The "boneless" technique in which objects are depicted in tones of color only and are not outlined in ink.

mokuhan 木版 - woodblock engraving; the process of making moku hanga.

moku hanga 木版画 - woodblock print; term encompasses ukiyo-e, shin hanga and sosaku hanga

mokume zuri - a method of producing woodgrain patterns on a print by using a densely grained woodblock, soaked in water to emphasize the grain.

mon - actor's crest.  For pictures of various actor's crests see the article Kabuki Actor Crests (mon).

motome ni ōjite (需めに応じて but written as ōju - 応需 or 需) - "in response to a request“ written by the artist beside their signature. The characters 随需 are also sometimes used. Also see ōju. 

musha-e 武者絵 - originally, paintings of historically important warriors and later grew to include all prints depicting warriors.

nanga - literally "Southern painting".  A traditional Japanese painting evolving in the Edo period (1603-1867) from a renewed interest in Chinese culture. A literati painting style worshiping things Chinese, includes painting and poetry, and prizing amateur status.

nigao-e 似顔絵 ("likeness pictures") - pictures of famous kabuki-actors (very often bust pictures), in which the actor's distinguishing features are represented in such a way that he may be recognized by face alone. (See also ōkubi-e and yakusha-e.)

Nihon Hanga Kyokai (Japan Print Association) - founded in 1931 by the merger of the Nihon Sosaku-Hanga Kyokai (Japanese Creative Print Association) and Yofu Hangakai (Western-Style Print Society).  It is the largest association of print artists in Japan and continues to hold annual exhibitions.

Nihon Sosaku Hanga Kyokai - formed in June, 1918 and included Kanae Yamamoto (1882-1946), Kazuma Oda (1882-1956), Tobari Kogan (1882-1927), Takeo Terazaki, Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955), Tsuruzo Ishii (1887-1973), Itaru Tanabe (1886-1968), Yoshiro Nagase (1891-1978), Hiratsuka Un'ichi (1895-1997), Maekawa Senpan (1888-1960) and Asahi Masahide (1900-1956). Its objectives were to disseminate information on the art of engraving, promote the print arts through exhibitions and lobby to have prints exhibited at the Teiten (Salon of the Imperial Art Institute) and establish a Department of Engraving at the Tokyo Academy of Fine Arts.  It eventually succeeded in its objectives.

nihonga (traditional Japanese-style painting) - term appearing in mid-Meiji period to differentiate artists working in traditional media from Western-style oil painters (yoga).  Not a single style, it includes a number of art associations and artists desiring to express an aesthetic believed to be "Japanese" through the use of traditional materials.

Nihonga (movement) -  begun in the 1880s by Okakura Tenshin (1862-1913) as a reaction against Western imagery.  He was concerned with cultural identity and aware that quality work could no tbe produced by the mere adoption of Western forms and he urged that Japanese style painting be remodeled to conform to the new age. Nihonga works were typically made with ink and mineral pigments on traditional silk and paper formats such as hanging scrolls, folding screens and sliding doors.

nimaime - actor specialized in the roles of handsome and refined young lovers, often performed in the wagoto style.

Nikakai - Second Division Association (Second Section Society) formed in 1914 by Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958), Yasui Sōtarō (1888–1955), Sakamoto Hanjirō (1882-1969), and other painters in opposition to the conservative official Bunten.  They were sympathetic to European avant-garde ideas. The organization was still active in the late 1980s.

nishiki-e ("brocade pictures") - term coined for the full-color woodblock prints appearing after 1764-65 that used more advanced printing techniques.

Nitten 日展 (The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition) - the successor to the Bunten and Teiten.  In 1946, after World War II, the management of the Imperial art Academy was taken over by the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition and the Nitten was formed. The Nitten Corporation was formed in 1958 to handle the annual exhibition. The Nitten is the most popular of all the major art organizations in Japan and consists of five sections covering Japanese style painting, Western style painting, sculpture, craft as art, and calligraphy.

nochi-shite (nochijite) - in a two-part Noh play, the shite is maejite (“before-shite”) in the first part and nochijite (“after-shite”) in the second.

noh - a kind of symbolic drama colored with the graceful aesthetic effect of quiet elegance that is expressed through the word yugen ("elegant, refined, and elusive beauty"). Its subjects are taken from history or classical literature, and it is structured around song and dance.

oiran - the highest-ranking courtesan.

ōju 応需 or 應需 ("by special request") - often placed before an artist's signature to announce a requested design. Also see motome ni ōjite.