Photo/IllutrationExhibits in the permanent gallery at the Kawasaki Ukiyo-e Gallery in Kawasaki’s Kawasaki Ward are replaced monthly. The interior is dimly lit because ukiyo-e prints are susceptible to light. (Hiromi Saito)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KAWASAKI--Former Upper House lawmaker Fumio Saito spent half a century amassing a huge collection of ukiyo-e masterpieces, which are now on loan to the Kawasaki Ukiyo-e Gallery here.

The exhibition, titled the Saito Fumio Collection, comprises around 4,000 woodblock prints in total, although they are not all on show at any one time and will be replaced monthly.

The gallery is housed on the third floor of the Kawasaki Ekimae Tower RiverK complex, which connects directly with JR Kawasaki Station.

Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings reflect everyday lives, trends and other aspects of people from the Edo Period (1603-1867).

The collection includes famous works such as Katsushika Hokusai’s “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” and the first Utagawa Hiroshige’s “Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido,” as well as numerous rare pieces.

Many of the artworks are themed on Kawasaki and Kanagawa Prefecture, including board game illustrations created by Hokusai featuring Kamakura, Atsugi, the Tamagawa river and other local sites.

Other notable works are rare illustrations drawn by ukiyo-e painters themselves. One carries an inscription by famous scholar Motoori Norinaga under the pseudonym of “Suzunoya no Oji.”

The city government spent about 100 million yen ($913,700) to set up the gallery, which is run by the Kawasaki Foundation. The exhibits are on loan from the Kawasaki Isago no Sato Museum headed by Saito, 91, and replaced monthly because ukiyo-e prints are susceptible to light, officials said.

“In world terms, this is a rare collection that is especially wonderful as it places Kanagawa-themed works at its core,” said Shuichi Uchimura, president of Edo Culture Laboratory Co., an art dealer specializing in ukiyo-e.

For his part, Saito said: “My aim is to expose visitors to the history of Kanagawa and cultural aspects of the time through ukiyo-e. I want to attract people not only from Japan but also from the rest of the world.”

Saito also said he intends to attend a talk at the gallery once or twice a week.

Until Jan. 26, the second part of a special exhibition will be held to demonstrate the transition from black-ink only woodblock printing to multicolored “nishiki-e” printing.

The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is 500 yen and free for senior high school students and younger children, as well as people with disabilities. It is closed on Mondays and other designated days.

For more information, visit the official website at (https://ukiyo-e.gallery/en/).