Global Inspiration: Nikko, Tochigi, Japan

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"

"History of the Kegon Sect" by Unknown - Kyoto National Museum


The Great Wave off Kanagawa

"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.’

Torii Gate A Torii Gate in Nikko

Shrine in Nikko
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.


Shinkyo 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.


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


  • Thank you, Rebecca!
    David: great times!

  • Love this series! They’re beautiful!

  • good times


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