Japanese Paper-Cut Art

By Shoto Kimura   

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This page highlights the paper-cut art works of Shoto Kimura, a Kyoto artist. It includes my personal photos of his art, some examples of his later works, photos of the artist, some other works, and links to other sites with papercut art.  Updated Sept. '02

I first met Shoto Kimura when I was living in Kyoto in the 1980's.  His home and gallery are across the street from Kawai Kanjiro's house, which is now a nice museum.  Kimura-san innovated a very intricate style of paper cut art that combines the simpler Chinese art form with detailed Japanese motifs.  He is also a student of the very traditional Noh theater -- which is strong in Kyoto -- and many of his original themes were scenes from Noh and Kabuki plays.

I am saddened by news from the Kimura family, that Mr. Kimura recently passed away in Kyoto in September, 1996.   His art, his nobility, and his friendship will be greatly missed by many, among whom I proudly count myself.

In Japanese, paper-cut art is usually called kirie (kiri-e = cut-pictures), but Kimura-san calls his art senshi (sen-shi = snip-paper), from the Chinese.  He starts with locally hand made Japanese paper (washi), usually containing a colored wash.  After applying several layers, he uses small knives to patiently cut the intricate designs, based on his own original art works.  It takes many days to complete even a small picture.  Even looking at these works in person, it is not obvious that they are created by cutting paper.  When you get close up and see the various layers of colored paper you realize that the intricate detail is all done with knives.  Here are twelve examples.

These are not offered for sale, just for your viewing pleasure.
All of Mr. Kimura's art works are copyrighted © by the estate of Mr. Kimura.

Click on an image to see the entire picture;  most are 10k to 16k JPEG images.  Larger JPEG images are also available, below, for some of the pictures; they just take longer to download. 

1.                      2.                        3.                       4.
1. Onna Shibaraku, Kabuki dance.   Large JPG  24k;  Larger JPG  58k
2. Yugiri, Kabuki.   
Large JPG  26k;  Larger JPG  52k
3. Kakitsubata, Noh play.   
Large JPG  40k
4. Izutzu, Noh play.   
Large JPG  52k

5.                      6.                        7.                       8.
5. Izutsu, Noh play.  Paper fan, mounted on a folding board.   Large JPG  41k
6. Kurozuka, Noh play, "Adachi-ga-Hara" scene.  
Large JPG  46k
7. Hagoromo, Noh play. 
Large JPG  56k
8. Untitled, Noh character. 
Large JPG  44k

  9.                    10.                       11.                      12.
  9. Okina and Koomote, two classic Noh Masks.  Large JPG  52k
10. Benkei at the Bridge, Kabuki play.
11. Fuji Musume, Kabuki dance.
12. Jishi, Lion Dance, Kabuki.

Photos of the artist  Shoto Kimura

Later Works

All of the works above represent Shoto Kimura's long series of works of classical Noh and Kabuki theater characters. His later works included many scenes from Kyoto. One series was called "Showa Hitoketa Kyo Sodachi" and includes 120 titles.  The name means "Growing up in Kyoto in the One-Digit Showa Years".  The Japanese count years by the reigns of the Emperors.  The Showa era began in 1925 with the ascension of the previous Emperor, Hirohito; so the years "Showa 1" through Showa 9" were 1925 through 1933, when Mr. Kimura was growing up in the Go-jo Zaka area of Kyoto. These seemingly simple images reflect on a simpler time, as seen through the eyes of children.

A few years ago a Kyoto newpaper published a series of articles based on selections from this series of art works, taking a look back on the Kyoto of that time. Mr. Kimura also provided textual descriptions of his memories of growing up in Kyoto.

Since the death of Mr. Kimura, his family has endeavored to collect images of some of the many hundreds of his art works, most of which were sold to art lovers from around the world. (All of his works were sold as one-of-a-kind originals, and not made into prints.) Among the photos they do have are some of those made for the newpaper articles mentioned above. They have kindly allowed me to present some of those images here.  (Click the picture for a larger image.)

   1.                      2.                        3.
1. Hana-Tsumi ("Picking Flowers").   Large JPG  60k; 
2. Mokei-Hikoki ("Model Plane").   
Large JPG  61k; 
3. Daimonji ("The Fire Festival at Daimon-ji").   
Large JPG  72k

   4.                      5.                        6.                        7.
4. Yuki-asobi ("Playing with Snow").   Large JPG  57k; 
5. Omochi-tsuki ("Making Rice Cakes").   
Large JPG  68k; 
6. Shishi-mai ("New Year's Lion Dance").   
Large JPG  54k; 
7. Hane-tsuki ("Shuttlecock Game").   
The last four are traditional New Year's activities enjoyed by children.

I'm hoping to receive a few more images. Meanwhile, here are three thumbnails:


Here's another page with one more papercut done by Kumiko Nagahata

Finally, here are a few links to other Japanese paper-cut artists
whose sites I've found on the web.
Mikiharu Kume
Mayuko Fujino
Shu Kubo:   +gallery  

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Text Copyright © 1996-2013, Randy R. Johnson, all rights reserved.
Artworks Copyright © by the artists.