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EVER since Japan opened its doors to the West in the latter half of the 19th century, Westerners have been enthralled by the exquisiteness of the art forms which flourished during the previous 250 years of self-imposed isolation. Among the most intriguing were the refined and powerful paintings and prints known as ukiyo-e – Utagawa Hiroshige’s woodblock ukiyo-e prints being among the best known of all Japanese works of art.

Son of an Edo fireman of samurai status, Hiroshige went on to create some 4000 designs during his 50-year career of classic ukiyo-e subjects. His most famous fan print designs include the classic Views of Edo and Views of the Provinces which offer us a chance to see through the artist’s eye views of early to mid-19th century Japan, literature, Kabuki, history and legend, flowers and animals.

Again offered as a tie-in to September’s Japan 2001 exhibition at the V&A – they’re getting the hang of this marketing lark – and written by the deputy curator of the museum’s Far Eastern department, the book is a catalogue of the V&A’s collection of the 126 designs for fan prints, uchiwa-e, assembled between 1886 and 1919. One for lovers of Japanese art.