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'Hyakunin Issho'
Newsletter for fans of David Bull's printmaking activities
Issue #14 - Winter 1993
Contents of this Issue:


'Sen-ri no michi mo, ippo kara', goes the old Japanese proverb, although maybe in my case I should change it to 'Hyaku-ri'. My "journey of a thousand miles" too, started with a single small step, and is now half over. As I mentioned in the last 'Hyaku-nin Issho', this issue is a kind of 'special edition' to commemorate that milestone.

In the Fall issue I asked for contributions for this edition, but most of you were either too busy or too shy to try, so I dug back into my correspondence files to see what I could find. I turned up a few things that I'd like to share with you ...

I hope this issue gets to you before the end of the year. The fall months are always very busy, and I kept putting off work on this newsletter until it was almost too late, and the company that prints it for me is of course also very busy at the end of the year. Also very busy, but nevertheless unstinting with their time and assistance, were my friends Takayoshi Sakazaki and Akemi Doi, living nearby in Hamura, who have been too generous with their time, helping me with translations for both this newsletter and the monthly print letters. Without their help, none of this communication could take place.

Letters from Readers

- from Rebecca Marck, Nagano City. Becky was featured in the 'Customer Profiles' column in an earlier issue. She gets her own back here ...

I remember very vividly the day that I became a part of this massive undertaking. I was one of those who "signed on" after reading the Japan Times. I had been interested in 'Hyaku-nin Isshu' as an aspect of Japanese culture, and I got involved more from that angle than from any deep appreciation of woodblock prints.

Why am I in for the long haul? I guess it's mostly because I see my participation as a kind of patronage of the arts. I admire in others what I don't see in myself, so I find David's single-minded dedication to this project to be somewhat awe-inspiring. I think anyone devoted enough - and daft enough - to take on such a monumental task deserves both financial and moral support. And then too, I've enjoyed watching the evolution, the steady progress and the branching out of the craftsman and the project. That's why I would never object to David's occasional experimentation and departure from the original. I think it would be too stifling if he didn't start to impose his own creativity on the prints to some degree. "Have at it, David, just as long as you don't quit!"

- from Mr. Eiichi Sato of Hachioji City, Tokyo.

It has been very inspiring for me to see the re-awakening of the colourful feelings of the Edo era, and the re-birth of a more than two hundred year old part of Japanese culture, under Mr. Bull's hands. When I saw his works, I was very surprised to learn that he has been able to pick up the art of old Japanese woodblock printmaking through self-study. I think that we Japanese should feel very warm feelings of gratitude that a foreigner should be helping to preserve these Edo period printmaking skills. Please persevere to the end through the many difficulties you will face...

- from Mieko Takahashi and Yoshie Nakai of Atomi Gakuen Tanki University Library

Congratulations on getting your permission for permanent residence. Your heartwarming story ending with the phrase "my country ... is Japan.", gives Japanese like us much pleasure also. (I should also let you know that just like you, we also have chosen to live without TV) ...

- from Mr. Fusahiko Tanaka, of Inagi City in Tokyo

I eagerly await the time when the arrival of each issue of 'Hyaku-nin Issho' is due. It is very pleasing for me to think that I have become 'one' of the 'hundred' people involved.

About the 'variation' from the original colours; this is only my idea, but I think that the deep colours on this month's print are coordinated quite well, and the addition of more colours than the original in a few places adds tension to the print. I understand that although you basically intended to remain faithful to the originals, I hope that we can see more and more of your personal ideas coming out in the work.

- from Akemi Doi, of Hamura City. Her comments followed her reading of the 'Shokunin vs Craftsman' newsletter story ...

I sometimes talk with my husband about the cultural differences between Western and Japanese society. He thinks that Westerners always seem to think they are right, in every situation, for example, not allowing us to eat whales. However, the Japanese can respect other cultures, and are tolerant enough to accept them, perhaps sometimes too tolerant. Well, I don't agree with him. I have a pen friend in London. She is tolerant enough to respect our culture, and I think you are also. You said that the Japanese way and the Western way are very different, but you don't say which is better. I agree with you. I'm interested in a person in whom such different ways are trying to live in the same head and the same hands!

- from Mrs. Emiko Kawanaka of Oi Machi in Saitama. (After a visit to my workshop)

My feelings of enjoyment for my prints are greatly increased, now that I have seen and understand something of the process of how you make them, and what type of hardships are involved. Stepping into your workroom is like being in a 'time slip', away from modern Japanese society - a very relaxed feeling. It has been very stimulating for me to have met you and your family. I want my children to maintain such a creative power ...

- from Mr. Isamu Adachi of the Adachi Institute for Hanga Studies.

Thank you very much for sending the 'Hyaku-nin Issho' newsletters. I have great respect for your work and the efforts you are making to make people understand the background of woodblock printmaking and the traditional culture of Japan. You are actually doing what we should be doing, and we appreciate it very much.

Project History

After enjoying that 'mini' exhibition in the small 'free space' at the end of the first year's work, I tried to make subsequent exhibitions more interesting for the viewers too. Hamura City has no galleries or display space for work like mine, but I found a pleasant gallery in neighbouring Ome City, and rented it for both the second and third exhibitions. I took along my tools and woodblocks to give printing demonstrations, and also displayed various photographs and other material to complement the prints. Each time, the media was very helpful with press notices, and even though the gallery was not convenient for people living in downtown Tokyo, the crowds were good, and the subscriber list steadily grew.

During 1991 and 1992, there was a steady stream of TV crews, newspaper reporters, and magazine photographers through my workshop, and my scrapbooks grew quite fat with clippings. It seems to me that I have the best possible situation here, enjoying the 'up side' of media attention, and having none of the 'down side'. Someone who is really quite famous loses all their privacy and can't even walk down the street without drawing attention. Thankfully, I certainly don't have that problem, and I'm sure I never will, but have to admit that I get quite some personal pleasure from those scrapbooks ...

It was in the fall of 1991, just at the time I had completed the first quarter of the series, that the transition from 'English teacher/Printmaker' to just plain 'Printmaker' took place, although not quite the way I had been planning it. Rather than stop teaching because I had become able to depend on prints for our income, I had to close our little school because when my wife left for school in Canada, there was just no way I could possibly find time for printmaking, class preparation and teaching, and properly take care of our home and my two girls. Something had to give, and it had to be the teaching. I had been doing it for five years, and it was a big wrench to see it come to an end.

During those five years, I had met and come to know well, dozens of people from my neighbourhood, from pre-schoolers right up to grandmothers. Over the course of 2000+ lessons, I had worked very hard trying to help them improve their ability to communicate in English, and perhaps more importantly, to give them exposure to a way of thinking considerably different from their own. Some of them passed through my life with barely a ripple, but others had quite an affect on me. I learned a great deal about this country and its people during many long discussions sitting on the cushions in our six-mat room. I know too, that the reverse is also true, and that I made a considerable difference in the lives of not a few of them. It was a very rewarding five years.

Although I certainly enjoyed the transition to a life style in which my time was now completely under my own control, finances became tight. I was constantly 'in the red', and as the little bit of savings we had built up from English teaching gradually trickled away month-by-month, I tried to find ways to expose my work to more people. To this end, I decided to hold the January 1993 exhibition in downtown Tokyo. I was thinking of all those people living in central Tokyo who would perhaps like to see my work, but who found it just too far to travel to the Ome gallery where I had previously exhibited. I calculated ... the gallery in 'out-of-the-way' Ome (at a cost of 10,000 yen per day), with 250 people visiting in the week, resulted in 9 people becoming subscribers. Therefore, a gallery I had found in busy 'easy-to-reach' Shinjuku (even though it cost 100,000 yen per day) should surely bring in a somewhat larger number of visitors, and perhaps even enough subscribers to remove some of the financial pressure ...

It was quite a toss-up for me, to consider spending a fifth of the previous year's entire income on a short six-day exhibition, but I took the plunge, and booked the space. All together I spent just about a million yen, on the gallery rental, photography, trucking, pamphlets, etc. And how did it turn out? Well, by the end of the week, I had subscription orders from four people, five less than the previous year out in Ome. Of course I was very, very thankful for those four orders, as I'm sure you can believe, but have to admit being very disappointed overall ... I guess that really this kind of result is normal though, and the previous exhibitions, held during the 'bubble' years, were the exceptions ...

* * *

I don't know if I'm crazy or not, but I've booked the same gallery again for the next exhibition. I just can't see 'giving up' on Tokyo and heading back out to the local gallery. I know that the general economic picture has not improved much during the year, but if I simply turn tail and run away, then I know I'll never get anywhere. I'm hoping that with the bit of extra interest engendered by being 'halfway' through the 10-year project, there should be enough visitors to make the event a success. Last year at about this time, just before the exhibition, I was foolish and overconfident. I thought that all my problems would be over. But I learned my (painful) lesson, and this year my expectations are lower. Maybe I'll be in the black, maybe in the red. But over and above things like how much money I spend, how many people attend, or how many people choose to become collectors of my work, there remains the fact that there are going to be fifty prints hanging on the wall, where five years ago there were none. Fifty prints! It's going to feel pretty good to see them hanging up there. And whether many people join, or nobody joins, it will still feel pretty good.

After the exhibition is over, I'll pack everything up, come home, and get started on the second half of my journey. I can't predict everything that's going to happen during the next five years (I certainly couldn't have predicted much of what happened during the first five!), but of one thing I am very sure. There will be fifty more prints. Fifty prints that I hope will show at least as much improvement in their making as the first fifty did. I'm still just as enthusiastic and excited about this project now as I was in early 1989, five very, very long years ago. One reason is the fairly steady improvement in my skills. Another is the new things I am still learning about this craft. The communication and feedback from collectors is also obviously a very important part. But I guess mostly it's just because my work is so rewarding.

I read a newspaper story a while ago that reviewed a current movie which apparently deals with a group of men going through some kind of personal 'changes'. They were getting fat. They knew that "what they had" was "all they were ever going to get". They were realizing that "from here on in, it's all going to be downhill" ... etc. etc. These men were in their mid-thirties. Just a few weeks ago, I had my forty-second birthday. Although I'm not particularly happy about that, I certainly don't think that I'm on the way 'downhill'. Now I don't think that I'm anything special, and I feel like just a normal kind of person, but I'm dead sure that the point of view of those men in the movie is not only wrong, it's perverse. But it obviously reflects a very common view of human life, one in which we start out as babies, and then soon become 'students'. After we 'finish' studying we graduate into the world and become 'adults', and 'get a job'. That seems to be the end of advancing, and after some years of employment, we retire and then sit on our hands until we die.

I refuse to believe this is an acceptable scheme for life, but all around me I see young people accepting it without question. For them the big questions are not, "What shall I make of my life?", or "How can I best spend my time on this earth?", but rather, "What school shall I try and enter?", or "What do I want to be when I grow up?", as though this had to have a simple, single answer. Of course, these young people are simply taking things as they see them ... 'that's just the way things are'. But I would like to think that we can structure our society in such a way that we all spend less time as prisoners of our schools and jobs, marching in lock-step together through life following the same route map. I have a few ideas about how we might do this, and maybe in the newsletters during the second half of my printmaking project, I might start to widen my scope a little, and discuss some of them.

I guess I've wandered a bit off the track here at my word processor tonight. I was supposed to finish off this little article at the point where the next exhibition is coming up. The preparation all done ... The P/R material sent ... Another million yen has been committed ... Now just the waiting to see what happens. Will it be a success? Will I lose my shirt (again)? Will I have to go back to teaching English? Oohh ... the suspense ... (And just think - I gave up being a 'happy salaryman' in Canada for this ...)

List of Collectors

I have introduced a few of the collectors of my prints in past issues of this newsletter, but with only four issues a year, I'll never be able to include them all. On the occasion of this 'halfway issue', I'd like to offer at least a few words of appreciation to the others.

Who are these people? Well, among those I have met so far are housewives, teachers, stockbrokers, bus drivers, dentists, business people, artists, lawyers, accountants, librarians, and more. Some collected a single year's set and then finished there. Some first joined for just a year, but stayed for longer. Some have all five sets on their bookshelf, and have expressed their desire to be with me 'right to the end' ...

Dear collectors,

I would like to list your names here (in the order in which I met you), and offer my most sincere thanks for your support of my work. It may sound trite to say it, but it is true nonetheless, that without your help these prints would not exist. Your payments have not only covered the 'business' expenses for paper, woodblocks, newsletters, etc., but have directly supported my family. The rice on our table ... the roof over our heads ... our clothes ... everything we need, has come directly from you.

I suppose most of you are getting to know a lot about me by now, but I have only been able to get to know a few of you, mostly those who live near my home. A short gallery visit has had to suffice for others, and a great many of you I have only met over the telephone. My rather poor Japanese language ability limits these contacts considerably. Letters and postcards I receive from you are thus very much appreciated and enjoyed (my assistants help me with the parts that I can't read yet ...).

Whether you have collected 10 prints or 50 prints, I thank you very much for your support. I hope you can receive as much pleasure in the years to come from owning your prints as I have had in making them.



Mr. & Mrs. Cho

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Michi Terakado

Oume City, Tokyo

Mr. Iwao Yamashita

Oume City, Tokyo

Mrs. Yasuko Soda

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Kimie Morimoto

Naruto City

Mr. Katagiri

Haruno Town, Shizuoka

Mr. Moriwake

Kurashiki City

Mr. Tanaka

Aizutakada, Fukushima

Mr. Kawanaka

Ooi Town, Saitama

Mr. Oba

Kawasaki City

Mr. Ichikawa

Utsunomiya City

Mr. K. Anansiriprapha


Mr. Eiichi Sato

Hachioji City, Tokyo

Mr. & Mrs. Naritsugu Kamata

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Mitsuyama

Hamura City, Tokyo


Mrs. Mieko Noda

Akiruno City, Tokyo

Mrs. Michiko Sato

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Nanae Ozawa

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. F. Robinson

Vancouver, Canada

Ms. Phyllis Morita


Ms. Rebecca Marck

Nagano City

Ms. Amy Aki

Okayama City

Mrs. Miyoko Ashida

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Kiyomi Takahashi

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Mieko Hashimoto

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Miyoko Ebisawa

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Basic McIlhagga


Ms. Ann Hughes

Kobe City

Mrs. Suzuki

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Fumio Matsuuchi

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Mukaiichi

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Michael Lynch

Yokohama City

Larry and Yuki LaCoss


Mr. Michael Metteer

Philadelphia USA

Ms. Sheila Phalon


Mr. P. M. Groen


Mr. Shigeyuki Ushiro


Mrs. Iizawa

Akiruno City, Tokyo

Ms. Robbie Walker


Mr. Shibata

Hamura City, Tokyo


Mrs. Fukui

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Yamamoto

Kodaira City, Tokyo

Mrs. Kaneko

Oume City, Tokyo

Mrs. Otake

Musashino City, Tokyo

Mrs. Kiyoko Yokota

Musashino City, Tokyo

Ms. Ito

Oume City, Tokyo

Mr. Bunji Shimada

Musashimurayama City, Tokyo

Mr. Hajime Murai

Higashi Yamato City, Tokyo

Mr. Ozawa

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Leighton Akin


Mr. Oyama

Utsunomiya City

Dr. Sugimori

Yamakita Town, Kanagawa

Mrs. Kyoko Hosoya


Mr. Ushiyama


Mr. Baba

Oume City, Tokyo

Mr. Kato

Hamura City, Tokyo

Dr. Kitajima

Oume City, Tokyo

Mr. Teramoto

Shingu City, Wakayama

Mr. Takeuchi

Shingu City, Wakayama

Mrs. Ichikura

Kumagaya City, Saitama

Mrs. Ogawa


Mr. and Mrs. Karube

Kumagaya City, Saitama


Mr. Mark Roberts


Mrs. Chie Takeda

Niigata City

Mr. Usami

Oume City, Tokyo

Mrs. Nakagawa

Oume City, Tokyo

Mrs. Sumie Seki

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Kondo

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Koyanagi

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Kiyosaburo Kanai

Sagamihara City

Mr. Tanaka

Inagi City, Tokyo

Mrs. Iida

Kiyose City, Tokyo

Mr. Yamada

Kokubunji Town, Tochigi

Mr. Ned Herperger

Regina, Canada

Mrs. Yamada

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mr. Kawawa


Mrs. Shindo

Gyoda City, Saitama

Mrs. Shirane

Enan Town, Saitama


Kumagaya City, Saitama


Mr. & Mrs. Guttentag


Mrs. Hayasaka


Mrs. Sano

Musashimurayama City,Tokyo

Mrs. Koyama

Musashimurayama City, Tokyo

Mrs. Sasaki


Mrs. Okumura


Atomi University Library


Mrs. Ishikawa

Hamura City, Tokyo

Mrs. Kisshu

Kumagaya City, Saitama

Mr. & Mrs. Okuma

Higashi Matsuyama City, Saitama

Mrs. Suzuki

Higashi Matsuyama City, Saitama

Mr. Stefan Nalletamby


Mrs. Matsumoto


Mr. & Mrs. Simons

Vancouver, Canada


It has been a long and difficult year. When I started out on this project, I had the kind of impression that although the early stages might be tough going, things would soon get smoother and easier. But of course, things don't always go according to plan, no matter how well one prepares, and I suppose it's just as well. If there were no bumps or curves in the road, we'd all fall asleep at the wheel!

But now for a short while, the work is to be put aside. The ten prints for this year are finished, this newsletter is finally almost ready for the printer, and even my New Year's cards are all done early for a change. It's time for a break, and if I can remember how, I'm just going to sit here for a while and do nothing.

Thank you very much for your part in the last five years. Until next year ...