All About Japan

Pokémon Art with a Traditional Twist

Handicrafts Art Ukiyo-e Gaming Pokémon

Is the quintessential representation of Japanese art an ukiyo-e woodblock print or an anime cel? Now you won't have to choose, since these two artistic forces have come together in a collection of Pokémon woodblock prints.

These aren’t simply illustrations drawn using classical aesthetics, either. Highly skilled craftsmen actually carved, by hand and using traditional techniques, the necessary woodblocks to use as stamps for producing the paintings.

The result is authentic woodblock prints, but that’s not the only nod to the art form’s lengthy past, as both of the paintings are homages to famous ukiyo-e. 19th century artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s "View from the Chronocles of Yoshitsune: Gojobashi"...

...has real-life samurai Minamoto no Yoshitsune and warrior monk Benkei’s fabled duel in Kyoto reenacted by Snorlax, Pikachu and original Pocket Monster video game protagonist Red.

In a more serene depiction, the Kanagawa ukiyo-e from Utagawa Hiroshige’s painting series "53 Stations of the Tokaido," created between 1833 and 1834...

...sees its venue changed from the outskirts of Tokyo (back when it was still called Edo) to Vermilion City. Instead of human travelers, it’s now Pikachu, Bulbasaur and Eevee among those making the trip along the highway connecting Edo and Kyoto, while aquatic Pokémon including Magikarp and Gyarados watch from the bay. The fact that Vermilion City shares many characteristics with Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture’s largest city, makes the location especially apt.

As pieces of fine art, you won’t find the ukiyo-e prints sitting on the shelves of Japanese toy shops. Instead, they’ll be offered through the Pokémon Center Online shop, priced at ¥45,000 (US$440). Orders can be placed between October 15 and December 18, 2016 with delivery scheduled for early March.

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