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Amazing Copyright Free Japanese Utagawa Kuniyoshi Prints – Pictureboxblue

Amazingly with all the travel bans, I managed to sneak a trip to London. It was to visit the V&A museum, one of my favourite places. I had tickets for the superb “Kimono: Kyoto To Catwalk” exhibition. That inspired me for this curated collection of free Japanese Utagawa Kuniyoshi prints.

The exhibition was full of stunning kimonos from the 1660s to the present. Dotted throughout the display were stunning traditional Japanese woodcut prints. 

Having already shared old Japanese art prints from the Shin-Bijutsukai, Watanabe Seitei and vintage Japanese travel posters.  I’ve added to the vintage Japanese theme with these Utagawa Kuniyoshi prints.

Free vintage Utagawa Kuniyoshi Japanese woodblock prints

Who Was Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Utagawa Kuniyoshi was a Japanese artist and one of the last great masters of the Ukiyo-e style (see below) of woodblock printing.  He was probably one of the most prolific and popular Japanese woodblock printers. 

Kuniyoshi was the son of a silk-dyer. Apparently, he assisted his father’s business as a pattern designer, and some have suggested that this experience influenced his rich use of color and textile patterns in prints.

As a child, Kuniyoshi was inspired, by ukiyo-e warrior prints and pictures of artisans and commoners (as depicted in artisans’ manuals). This was reflected in his woodcut prints.

What is Ukiyo-e

Ukiyo-e was a type of Japanese woodblock prints from the 17th to -20th Century.  Produced in their thousands these popular prints depicted scenes from everyday Japan.

Ukiyo-e literally means “pictures of the floating world“. The “floating world” referred to the licensed brothel and theatre districts of Japan’s major cities during the Edo (old name for Tokyo) period.

Despite their low status in the strict social hierarchy of the time, actors (kabuki) and courtesans became the style icons of their day. The inexpensive woodblock was a way of spreading this culture to the masses.

Japanese ukiyo-e prints were cheap because they could be mass-produced. They were produced for townsmen, who were generally not rich enough to pay for an original painting.

The original subject of ukiyo-e was city life, in particular activities and scenes from the entertainment district. Beautiful courtesans, big Sumo wrestlers, and popular actors would be portrayed while doing interesting activities.

Later on, landscapes also became a popular subject for Japanese woodcut prints. To this day, Ukiyo-e is still very popular across the world.

The Free Japanese Woodcut Utagawa Kuniyoshi Prints

These vintage Japanese woodcut prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi are all in the Public Domain. Which means you are free to print and use them as you wish.

Just click on the title of the Japanese woodcut print you want to download. A large copy of the Utagawa Kuniyoshi prints will open in a new tab on your device. If you right-click on that print you will have the option to save it to your hard drive.

1. Tamaya uchi Usugumo

The title of this print translates as “The courtesan Usugumo of Tama-ya“. One of Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s later Japanese woodcut prints dated 1830.

Blue Japanese woodcut print

2. Actor With Fan Under Cherry Blossom

Cherry blossoms are very symbolic in Japanese art and culture. It’s the blossom’s beauty and transience which associates them with mortality and graceful and readily acceptance of destiny and karma.

Kabuki actor Japanese woodcut print

3. Bando Mitsugoro On The Stairs

Bando Mitsugoro was a Kabuki actor. Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi woodcut prints

4. Three Actors at A Folding Screen 1

The next three Japanese woodcut prints are part of the same series and displayed together as one.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi woodcut prints 3 actors 1

5. Three Actors at A Folding Screen 2

Three actors folding screen 2

6. Three Actors at A Folding Screen 3

Three actors folding screen 3

7. Ichikawa Danjūrō VII as a Peddler

Ichikawa Danjūrō VII (1791 – 1859) was a Japanese kabuki actor who specialized in male hero (tachiyaku) roles, said to be the greatest of the 19th century.

Ichikawa Danjūrō VII as a Peddler

8. Iwai Hanshiro V

This is another Utagawa Kuniyoshi Print of a Japanese actor.

vintage Japanese woodcut prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

9. Mimasu Gennosuke

A traditional Japanese ukiyo-e style illustration of an actor Mimasu Gennosuke in the role of Naniwa Jirosaku.

Japanese woodcut prints of famous kabuki actors

10. Japanese Woodcut Print of Actor Nakamura Shikan II

Japanese woodcut print of actor Nakamura Shikan II

11. Kanadehon Chūshingura

A scene from act 7 of the play Kanadehon Chūshingura showing Onoe Baikō IV in a female role as Okaru (left) imploring Sawamura Sōjūrō V as Ōboshi Yuranosuke (right), a Kudayū crouched in hiding behind them.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi Prints Kanadehon Chūshingura -

12. Tamaya Yoji

The actor Tamaya Yoji painted by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi Prints - Tamayo Yoji

13.  Nakamura Utaemon IV

Another Japanese actor woodcut print.

Nakamura Utaemon IV

14. Tamakatzura Tamatori Attacked by An Octopus

In Japanese culture, the Akkorokamui is a gigantic octopus-like monster from Ainufolklore, equivalent to the Nordic Kraken, which supposedly lurks in Funka Bay in Hokkaido. It is said that its enormous body can reach sizes of up to 33 meters (108 feet) in length.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi Octopus

15. Omatsu Attacking Akabori Mizuemon on a Boat with a Sword

Japanese woodcut print

16. Genjigumo ukiyo-e awase – Utagawa Kuniysohi Prints

The great 12th-century general Taira no Tomomori ties himself to an anchor so that he may die by his own hand and not from enemy action as defeat nears in the famous sea battle at Dan-no-Ura (1185). In “The Tale of Genji,” as her death approaches, Lady Murasaki insists on making the arrangements for her own funeral rites.

Japanese woodcut prints

17. Hare 

The Kabuki actor Bando Shuka I in a female role as Kosan (left) tucking some papers into her robe, and Ichikawa Danjuro VIII as Kingoro (right) seated in the background, from the kabuki play Kosan Kingoro, performed at the Nakamura theatre in the ninth month of Kaei 3 (1850).

This woodcut print is titled hare as there are a circle of hares in the top left corner.

Hare by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

18. Goat – Utagawa Kuniyoshi

An unidentified actor as Iwanaga Souren (left), with red make-up, sitting under a banner with a paulownia leaf crest, and an unidentified actor as the courtesan Akoya (right) wearing a robe decorated with a Chinese lion.

You will notice a goat in the top left corner, hence the title of this print.

Utagawa Koniyoshi prints

19. Cats – Utagawa Kuniysohi Prints

If you check there are some cats playing in the top left corner Japanese woodcut print.

Cats Japanese woodcut prints

20. Clearing Weather at Yamatoya

Clearing Weather at Yamatoya

21. Kichisaburō Arashi III

Kichisaburō Arashi

22. Moso Hunting for Bamboo Shoots

22. Moso Hunting for Bamboo Shoots

23. Yoko Protecting his Father From a Tiger

You will find more tiger drawings and art here.

Yoko Protecting his Father From a Tiger

24. Mongaku Doing Penace at the Nachi Waterfall

Nachi Falls is one of the best-known waterfalls in Japan. With a drop of 133 meters (and 13 meters wide), it is the country’s tallest waterfall with a single uninterrupted drop.


25. Opening Shellfish at Fukagawa

Fukagawa is an area in KōtōTokyo.

Opening Shellfish at Fukagawa

26. Woman in Boat on Sumida River – Utagawa Kuniyoshi Prints

The Sumida River is a river that flows through central Tokyo, Japan. It branches from the Arakawa River at Iwabuchi and flows into Tokyo Bay.

(This image was used for the DIY tea light lanterns craft)

Woman in Boat on Sumida River - Utagawa Kuniyoshi Prints

27. Hatsuhana Doing Penance Under the Tonosawa Waterfall

Hatsuhana Doing Penance Under the Tonosawa Waterfall

28. Tokiwa and Her Children Escaping in The Snow

“During the civil conflict of 1159, known as the Heiji Rebellion, the father of Yoshitsunewho was to grow into one of Japan’s most celebrated samurai heroes was killed. In the wake of this tragedy, the boy’s mother escaped with him and his two brothers to the mountains in the midst of a snowstorm.

In this heartrending scene, the artist Kuniyoshi conveys the woman’s strength and maternal tenderness as she leans against the wind. The tiny shoes of the toddlers she protects are visible under her cloak. One of the boys would grow to become the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate; and the other, Yoshitsune, would famously defend the honor of the Minamoto clan.” 

Tokiwa and Her Children Escaping in The Snow

29. Nichiren in Snow at Tsukahara, Sodo Province

Nichiren was a Japanese Buddhist priest of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), who developed the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.

Nichiren in Snow at Tsukahara, Sodo Province

30. Landscapes and Beauties- Feeling Like Reading the Next Volume.

Landscapes and Beauties- Feeling Like Reading the Next Volume

One of Utagawa’s woodcut prints is in this collection of elephant drawings and illustrations. And the technique was used to produce these Japanese patterns and designs.

If you enjoyed these Japanese woodcut prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, you should check out the fantastic old Japanese photos of Kusakabe Kimbei. There are also some Japanese woodcuts in this collection of old maps of Japan.

30 Free Utagawa Kuniyoshi prints

By the way, there is a Japanese woodblock print of a tiger in the tiger drawing collection and a few more with these owl drawings.

If you liked these then you will probably love the delightful Helen Hyde Japanese woodblock prints.

Mary Lee Smyth

Saturday 1st of January 2022

Happy 2022!

I have just found your site. Thank you so much for all the work you put into this wonderful space! I too have an affinity for maps. I also create hand cut wooden jigsaw puzzles. The combination of a vintage map image with my hand cut jigsaws are a very challenging match indeed! Here is my website if you would like to see what I do. Thank you again for your generosity. Wishing you and your loved ones peace, prosperity and good health in the future,

Sincerely, Mary Lee Smyth


Monday 3rd of January 2022

Thank you, your jigsawslook great. Happy New Year!

Naush Samama

Saturday 31st of October 2020

Fascinating ! Thank you so much for joining us at Meraki Link Party. Much love Naush


Saturday 31st of October 2020

Thank you, glad you enjoyed them.


Saturday 31st of October 2020

They are really awesome. Thanks for sharing.


Saturday 31st of October 2020

Thank you.

Kathy A

Friday 30th of October 2020

Thank you so much for finding these for us. I can think of lots of projects to use these for besides just framing them. I'd love to make several screens for my dollhouse people using them!


Saturday 31st of October 2020

That sounds like a wonderful project. Yes they are great images to craft with.


Monday 26th of October 2020

I love Japanese woodcuts! The colors and patterns and the occasional ombre effects... Beautiful.


Wednesday 28th of October 2020

Thank you, yes they are beautiful.