Shôbidô Tanaka

Founder name was Tanaka Ryozo born in 1874, Kyoto who worked at a bookstore "Tsujimoto Shosho Do" in Osaka and moved to its Tokyo branch office. Then he finally succeeded in opening his own shop named "Tokyo Shobido Gakyoku" dealing with woodblock prints on April 3 in Meiji 30th year (1897) at Okemachi, Kyobashi, Tokyo Founding capital was 30 yen with only one cart and 600 woodblock prints for sale. In 1898 his shop was moved to Jinbocho at Kanda area, where he expanded his business line into promising post cards by new printing method. ( I believe that he could also continue his woodblock printing for Hasui, Koitsu, Shotei and other artists in 1930's.)

Just after the World War in 1945 his business was succeeded by Tanaka Teizo (his son?). In 1962 Tanaka Teizo formed a new community group of "Kanda Kai" starting to edit this town journal of "Kanda". Then after in 1977 Tanaka Sanae took over his office up to very recent date of 1999/06/30 in Kanda.

The above information was submitted by Tosh Doi in July, 2003. It is a summary of an article that he found in the town journal of "Kanda"

In the world of shin hanga research, there are occasional rewards for those who keep their eyes open. Here is a "new" piece of data which shatters a myth or two.

In November, 2001, courtesy of Robert O. Muller, I came into possession of a photostat of a catalog, apparently produced by the publisher Shôbidô Tanaka and Company operating under the trade name of "Globe's". This catalog was acquired by Mr. Muller in Japan in Spring, 1940. In addition to some reproductions of old ukiyo-e masterpieces, it contains original prints designed in the 1930s by Kawase Hasui, Tsuchiya Koitsu, and Takahashi Hiroaki.

The six Hasui prints are the ones attributed (in the Merritt/Yamada listing of Hasui's works) to the publisher "Tokyo Shôbidô", and listed in the Narazaki catalog raisonne as TS-1 through TS-6. All six are pictured in this catalog and can be viewed in the scans below.

The seal to the right is from the margin of Shinobazu Pond by Hasui (TS-6 or A/1 below). The characters above are illegible, but probably read Hankenshoyu or "copyright owned by". Below that, it reads Tokyo Shôbidô Han.

Up until this discovery, I had accepted the incorrect common knowledge that Takahashi Shôtei (or Hiroaki) was published only by Watanabe and Fusui Gabô. This catalog contains 12 mitsugiri-ban format prints and almost 200 prints in smaller formats, all clearly attributed to Hiroaki.

There are 3 Hiroaki prints displayed in the Chigasaki Museum's catalog of their Tsuchiya Koitsu show. They are also displayed in Shôbidô's catalog as prints B/1, B/2, and B/3. Chigasaki attributed them to the publisher "Tanaka Han".

So, what we have here is a single publisher, variously known as:

  • Globe's
  • Shôbidô Tanaka and Co.
  • Tokyo Shôbidô Han
  • Tanaka Han

Here are some pages from the catalog, for your entertainment. To view high-res scans, click on the page image.


Title Page

The title page of the catalog has an ovoid monogram with the initials "STC", along with the hand-written explanation that this stands for "Shôbidô Tanaka & Co.".

Colour Prints

This page explains the numbering conventions used in the catalog and states the sizes of the various print formats.


This index page is from the end of the book. For each print, it states the artist name and the title.

There is a small problem in that, as printed, it attributes the first 9 B-class prints (mitsugiri-ban) to Kawase Hasui. These are all sealed with Hiroaki's seals and are clearly not the work of Hasui.

Page 3

A couple of Hasui oban prints. A/1 is titled "Sinobazu Pond in Winter" and is known by Narazaki as TS-6. A/2 is titled "Niomon Gate, Asakusa" and is listed by Narazaki as TS-5.

Page 4

A couple more Hasui oban prints. A/3 is titled "Sacred Bridge, Nikko" and is known by Narazaki as TS-1. A/4 is titled "Yomeimon Gate, Nikko" and is listed by Narazaki as TS-2.

Page 5

The final 2 Hasui oban prints. A/5 is titled "The Avenue of Gigantic Cryptomerias in Nikko" and is known by Narazaki as TS-3. A/6 is titled "Nizyubashi, The Twin-bridge of Imperial Palace" and is listed by Narazaki as TS-4.

Page 6

Here are a couple of Hiroaki mitsugiri-ban prints. B/1 is titled "Saruhasi Bridge" and is known in the catalog as M-83. B/2 is titled "Strolling Musician" and is listed by the catalog as M-84.

The color images for both of these prints were scanned from the catalog of the Chigasaki Museum's Koitsu exhibition. They are attributed as having been published by "Tanaka Han" in the reference section of the Chigasaki catalog.

Shôbidô's Headquarters Building

This Shirô Kasamatsu print, dated Spring of 1936, was published as a promotion by Shôbidô. The title is "Fine weather after snow at Shôbidô head office". It was uncovered in July, 2002, in a Tokyo print shop by Andreas Grund, who has been compiling "The Complete Woodblock Prints of Shirô Kasamatsu". Click on the picture for a closer look.

Dr. Grund says: "Indeed, an impressive building, left side is the Head Office, right wing is the Sales Department, actually, rather gorgeous and spacy for a print publisher... Above the entrance gate in Kanji "Shôbidô"... Office Building, right upper side: CHI KYU JIRUSHI = GLOBE MARK and, see the round ornament on top of the building which first looked to me like a balloon or a watertank. It's a globe - we've got the connection with the "Globe's Mark" of your catalogue reference... We know now that Shôbidô was a company of substantial size, existing in 1936."

Update: Another copy of this print was found attached to the cover of the town journal "Kanda" containing an article about the founding of this publishing company. Tosh Doi's summary of the article is at the top of the page.

Postcard with Shôbidô Markings

I found this print affixed to a postcard in an on-line auction. The print, ST-13 in the Shôtei catalog, title "Matsusima", is sealed "Hiroaki". On the back of the postcard are a couple of Shôbidô markings:

  • The text in the line which separates the message section from the address section reads "Tokyo Shôbidô".
  • The Globe mark is pictured in the printed box showing where the stamp should be attached.
The Japanese text at the top reads, right to left, Yûbin hagaki, which means "Mail postcard". Click on the picture above for a closer look.

Home  Copyright 2002-2003 by Marc Kahn; All Rights Reserved