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Iyo Blind a kuchi-e by Mizuno Toshikata, 1906, Honolulu Museum of Art

Kuchi-e are frontispieces of books, especially woodblock printed fronticpieces for Japanese romance novels and literary magazines published from the 1890s to the 1910s.[1]

They usually portrayed women and were bounded into the book's spine or inserted into literary magazines to give readers a sense of what type of stories were to unfold. Most Kuchi-e were woodblock prints in romance novels intended for a female audience. However, some were lithographs, and some were inserted into other types of literature. Most measured either 22 x 30 cm or 14 x 20 cm, the former being folded in thirds, and the latter being folded in half.[2] In the kuchi-e by Mizuno Toshikata, note the two horizontal fold lines and the margin on top for binding. Artists who designed kuchi-e include Hirezaki Eiho, Ikeda Shoen, Kaburagi Kiyokata, Kajita Hanko, Mishima Shoso, Mizuno Toshikata, Odake Kokkan, Ogata Gekko, Suzuki Kason, Takeuchi Keishu, Terasaki Kogyo, Tomioka Eisen, Tsutsui Toshimine, Utagawa Kunimatsu, Watanabe Seitei, and Yamada Keichu.[3][4]


The word "kuchi-e" (口絵) is usually translated into English as mouth (kuchi) picture (e).[5] However, "kuchi" (口) may also mean opening, as it does in the compound words iri-guchi 入口 (entrance) and de-guchi 出口 (exit). In this way, the translation "entrance picture" more clearly communicates the intended function of a kuchi-e as a frontispiece in a literary work.[6]


  • Merritt, Helen and Yamada Nanako, Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints--Reflections of Meiji Culture, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2000, ISBN 0824820738
  • Nanako, Yamada, "Beauties as Frontispieces" in Daruma Magazine, Issue 32, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 40–48, 2001


  1. ^ Newland, Amy Reigle. (2005). Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints. Amsterdam: Hotei, p. 463
  2. ^ Artlino
  3. ^ Oberlin College website
  4. ^ Artlino
  5. ^ Newland, Amy Reigle. (2005). Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints. Amsterdam: Hotei, p. 463
  6. ^ Personal communication with Stephen Salel, Robert F. Lange Foundation Assistant Curator of Japanese Art, Honolulu Museum of Art