Kyoko Bantock & Kitagawa Utamaro



In 1975, a wood-block (for making Japanese ukiyoe prints) was donated to Hijikawa Town and was kept in their Folk Museum for twenty years. For several years KB tried to find a print of this. At last she wrote to Shugo Asano, an ukiyoe expert of Chiba City Art Museum, near Tokyo. He eventually came to Hijikawa in 1998, and identified it as a genuine Utamaro wood-block over 200 years old! Kyoko's letter set in motion an amazing series of events of great significance in the international art world!


In March, 1999, a second Utamaro wood-block was identified, the pair being the left & right panels of a three-panel work, of which no print was known to exist. A colour print of the centre panel was then found to be in Elvehjem Museum in Wisconsin, U.S.A., and this was used to determine the colouring for the two outside panels. A new wood-block was made of this centre panel, & at last after 200 years, a new 3-panel print was made in October, 1999!

Kyoko's contribution in realizing this epoch-making event was recognized by Hijikawa Town, and she received a public presentation. The town then decided to build a special museum to house the two precious wood-blocks (In glass case in photo above left) and other exhibits related to Utamaro. The centrepiece was of course to be the newly discovered Utamaro work: "Women Playing the Game of Catch the Fox". (See photo above centre)


The Utamaro Art Museum, opened on 24 March, 2002, within 10 months received over 20,000 visitors. The building is part of Hijikawa Wind Museum, which also houses GB's Dragon Collection. Special ukiyoe exhibitions are held regularly in the Art Museum, where there is also an attractive & comprehensive permanent exhibition about the history and the making of ukiyoe.

[Utamaro Art Museum: Tel: +81-(0)893-34-2181. Closed on Tuesdays.]

KB’s “Masterpiece” — The Utamaro Art Museum in Hijikawa, Shikoku