How My Trip to Nikko, Japan Inspired My First Block Prints

Japanese Waves Print

When I was in Japan a few years ago, we took a day trip up to Nikko, a town in the mountains north of Tokyo. It was this trip that inspired my very first block prints: a series of water patterns inspired by the symbolism found in Japanese folk art.

“History of the Kegon Sect” by Unknown – Kyoto National Museum
“History of the Kegon Sect” by Unknown – Kyoto National Museum
“Great Wave off Kanagawa2” by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎)
“Great Wave off Kanagawa2” by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎)

This little town nestled in the clouds had an otherworldly quality. In fact, the Japanese have a saying, “Never say ‘kekkou’ until you’ve seen Nikko.” The word ‘kekkou’ means ‘beautiful,’ ‘magnificent,’ or ‘I am satisfied.’

 

A Torii Gate in Nikko, Japan
A Torii Gate in Nikko, Japan
A Shrine in Nikko, Japan
Nikko is home to many Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines

The area is well known for the beautiful Lake Chuzenji nestled in the mountains, and the nearby Kegon Falls waterfall. The abundant plant life is lush and green, swollen from its plentiful watering. Even the air is heavy with mist, and you can walk through the dense clouds that sit at street level. Observing this, I understood the spiritual quality the Japanese must have found in water and in nature.

Me at Lake Chuzenji
Me at Lake Chuzenji

 

The Shinkyō Bridge or “Sacred Bridge”
The Shinkyō Bridge or “Sacred Bridge”

So I decided to make these prints in honor of this little town called Nikko. Each is a representation of water so often found in Japanese art. When I look at them, I remember this town, and the many fascinating qualities of water: Water is peaceful and calm, but it can also be powerful and angry. Water is flexible, taking the shape of its container, yet it is a force powerful enough to carve away stone.

These were my very first prints. They will always hold a special place in my heart as they remind me of my trip to Nikko!

Japanese Waves Block Print

Japanese Water Series Tempest Block Print

Japanese River Block Print

 

 

Published by Alex Hughes

I am a graphic designer from Dallas who loves printmaking, travel, illustration, soccer, and psychology. I love personality tests too--I'm an INFP married to an ENFJ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: