Kuchi-e are woodblock-printed frontispiece illustrations produced for publication in Japanese novels and literary magazines at the turn-of-the-century. Many of the leading woodblock artists of the Meiji Period worked in this genre. The artists included Mizuno Toshikata, Ogata Gekko, Kajita Hanko, and the young illustrator, Kaburagi Kiyokata.

The primary subject matter of kuchi-e are bijin - "beautiful women". Kuchi-e reflect the romantic, idealised depiction of women that was evident throughout the history of Ukiyo-e, but the late-Meiji Period witnessed the development of a western influenced and more realistic style of graphic presentation.

Kuchi-e are approximately 22 x 29 cm in size and typically have two fold marks resulting from the manner in which they were inserted in publications. Many kuchi-e display deluxe printing techniques, including blind printing, the use of powdered metals and burnishing. These deluxe printings may have been, in part, a reaction against the newly-introduced photographic and lithographic printing processes which threatened the popularity of the traditional woodblock print.


The kuchi-e pictured below are from the monthly literary magazine Bungei kurabu (Literary Club) which began publication in 1895. Print titles and publication dates are courtesy of Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada.

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Click on artist's name for biographical information and signature

Kajita Hanko


June, 1907

Tsutsui Toshimine

"Festival Night"

June, 1912

Tomioka Eisen

"Snowy Day"


Mizuno Toshikata

"Bijin Hanging Flags"


Takeuchi Keishu

"Beauty in Moonlight"


Kaburagi Kiyokata



Kaburagi Kiyokata

"Waiting for Spring"


Ogata Gekko

"Bijin Viewing Iris and Birds"

June, 1905

Mishima Shoso

"Picture of a Beauty and a Mirage"