'Sushi Cats' Woodblock Print
This is one of our most technically difficult prints yet! It's the first time we've included tiny gradients that curve around a form. (See the cats' cheeks and wrists) Also, please take a moment to appreciate the wood grain all over the walls and floor - that was all hand carved! We're so proud of our team of carvers and printers over at Mokuhankan, Asakusa, Tokyo. Great job, guys!
The main title cartouche reads: 寿司にゃあんこ (sushi nyanko) 'Nyan' is Japanese for 'meow', and a 'nyanko' means 'kitty'.
The white cartouche reads: 満月の夜はとろ半額で満腹！！ Which means: On Full moons, get a full tummy with half-price toro!" (Toro is the belly cut of tuna. It's expensive and delicious.)
The green cartouche is full of puns: きゃ通にはたまらん四ッ足のにゃ青木屋の手巻シッポ The basic meaning is: 'The temaki sushi at Four-Leg Naoki's is irresistable to cats.' But when you look at the hidden puns, this title is thick with humor.
きゃ通 (kyatsu): This reads as 'kyatsu' which sounds like 'cats' in English. As a pun, it contains the kanji 通, (tsuu) which means 'a connoisseur'. So the word 'cats' actually means 'connoisseur cats', or 'cats with good taste'.
四ッ足 : This reads as 'yotsu-ashi', which means 'four-legged'. As a pun, it sounds a lot like 'Yotsu-bashi', an area in Osaka famous for its excellent dining.
にゃ青木 : (nyaoki) 'Naoki' is a common Japanese man's name. 'Nyao' is another word for 'meow'. When you combine the two, you get a very appropriate cat's name: Nyaoki.
手巻シッポ: (temaki shippo) 'Te-maki' is a kind of sushi. 'Maki-shippo' means 'curly tail', referring to the short, bobtail genetic feature that is prominent in many Japanese cats. So when you combine the two, you get 'temaki shippo'.
This design requires many individual impressions to achieve a full range of color. David uses the finest quality of yamazakura (mountain cherry) to carve his printing blocks. The wood is capable of holding a very fine level of delicacy – every last detail is printed by the wood left standing, after the rest has been cut away.
The paper is handmade Echizen Hosho Washi, made by national living treasure, Iwano Ichibei IX. This is the exact same paper printers used over 200 years ago! You can see a video of Mr. Iwano at work here.
This print is in the traditional koban format – 7 x 9 inches (17.5 x 23 cm).