There were two distinct regional styles of traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking, the dominant Edo school (Edo was the former name for Tokyo) and the Kamigata-style (for the region including the cities of Osaka and Kyoto — see Kamigata-e Links below).
The most obvious difference involved the range of subject matter. Edo prints (Edo-e) included beautiful women, geisha, courtesans, young lovers, erotica, domestic scenes, cityscapes, landscapes, nature scenes (especially birds and flowers), actors, military scenes, historical allegories, parodies, ghosts and demons, genre scenes, and still life. In stark contrast to this wide variety of subjects, Kamigata prints (kamigata-e, 上方絵) portrayed actors almost exclusively, with rare exceptions for a few of the previously mentioned genres.
The two regional styles of actor prints (yakusha-e) were derived, in part, from different methods of acting. The great Ichikawa Danjûrô I (1660-1704) created the aragoto ("wild business") manner of Edo acting, often featuring larger-than-life characters of prodigious strength and courage involved tales of bravado and heroism that seemed well suited to the temperament of Edo, the center of shogunate and military power since 1603. In contrast, Sakata Tôjûrô I (1647-1709) developed an acting methodology that combined a gentle and nuanced sensuousness with a refined and somewhat effeminate personna that became a standard for wagoto ("soft style") acting in Osaka, the mercantile center of Japan.
Both styles of play writing and acting were found in Edo and Kamigata, and certain stage characters were especially popular because they were performed with a mixture of the two styles. Nevertheless, the tendencies in each region were evident and were generally reflected in their printmaking.
There were other differences between the two domains. Among these was the sheer volume of the Edo printmaking industry — prints from Edo outnumbered those published in Osaka by a margin of at least twenty to one. In addition, quite a number of Edo artists were able to make their living primarily from their printmaking, whereas in Osaka a tiny handful of artists were able to do so. The "amateur" status of the highly
skilled Osaka designers, coupled with the small number of prints, made for a unique genre of printmaking. ©2000-2021 by John Fiorillo
In addition to the links below, more information and images can be found at www.OsakaPrints.com.