M Tote Bag (natural): ¥1,540
L Tote Bag (gray): ¥1,980
Keychains: ¥880 (each)
Website: (external link)


Tote Bags with Seasonal Woodcut Designs by Shiko Munakata

These tote bags features prints from “Ode to Beautiful Scenery of Spring”, a work by one of Japan’s leading woodblock print artists, Shiko Munakata (1903-1975). The bags are available in Large size, suitable for gifts or other large items you may want to carry, and also in Medium size which fits documents snugly. The Large comes in gray while the Medium comes in natural color, both calm tones that allow the black ink of the woodcut prints to pop.

“Ode to Beautiful Scenery of Spring” was completed by Munakata in 1955, consisting of 12 prints depicting a combination of flowers, plants, birds, and animals of the four seasons of Japan. The concept of this work was inspired by Japanese “hanafuda” playing cards that feature images of monthly flowers. The following year he exhibited the work along with another monumental work at the Venice Biennale and won the Grand Prix prize for his woodcuts. Munakata donated 4 of the 12 prints to Suganami, Tokyo, and 2 of these works, “January Matsutaka no Saku” and “November Wabisuke no Saku” are used for the tote bag art. As commented by the Suginami Art Project members responsible for the bags, “The birds and plants in these 2 works are adorably drawn, and very impactful in monochrome.”


Rare English Works by Munakata as Keychain Designs

At first glance these designed goods look like famous jazz album covers, but these keychains are actually from the works of woodcut printmaker Shiko Munakata (1903-1975). These specific works use the poetry of Walt Whitman, whose work Munakata adored. According to a Suginami Art Project member, “These designs are rare as they have a different impression from the large body of Munakata’s work. With a simple keychain that anyone can find useful, we thought it may attract new Munakata fans.”

According to an illustrated collection of Munakata’s works from the Shiko Munakata Memorial Hall, these works using Whitman poetry excerpts were created in 1959 during a stay in the United States as a result of invitations from the Rockefeller Foundation and Japan Society. The excerpts are from a poetry collection of Walt Whitman titled Leaves of Grass (1867). There are areas where Manakata’s hardships in carving English letters for the first time are evident, but that in itself brings out a more profound design. Of Munakata’s 13 Whitman works, “Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun” and “Perfections” are the 2 used on these keychains. Both have a pop style and make a lovely keychain for your keys or your bag, and could even work nicely as pendant jewelry.


You can purchase these items online at the Suginami Web Museum online shop: (external link)

*Please note the site is primarily in Japanese, but it is possible to navigate without knowing Japanese language.

[published June 2022]
Translation: Greg
Photography: TFF Staff