Kikuhide Business Information

Kikuhide started its business in 1979 as a woodblock print baren specialty workshop. We are currently the only workshop specializing in baren in Japan that handles everything from substitute baren to main baren. Thanks to you, Kikuhide's products have been used by many people who are devoted to woodblock print production for many years at professional printmakers, art colleges, vocational schools, and various print classes in Japan and overseas. We would appreciate it if you could see it as a material that you would like to know about Kikuhide products. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us by email.

TEL 0463-47-4123

[How to order]
■ Please contact us by email first. We will send you a confirmation reply email. If you do not receive a reply, please send the email again as some emails may be overlooked.

[Payment method]
■ Please use with PayPal. We are very sorry, but please bear the PayPal fee.

[About overseas shipping handling fees]
■ Please bear ¥ 2,000 per order.

[About shipping method]
■ We will send it by EMS at the post office.

[Delivery date]
■Please contact us each time.

■ BAREN core used for Murasaki Baren

The Murasaki Baren has been the favorite among printmakers for many years. It is a product of high quality and can be purchased at affordable prices. The baren shin (core) is made of twisted tetron/nylon cords whose quality is very close to the ones made of bamboo sheath. The ategawa (backing) is sawn and molded by a specialist from high quality shina (basswood) plywood, then coated with matt black lacquer, making it easy to hold and use.

□■ Medium core 12cm(¥12,000)・13cm (¥15,000)

This type of baren can be used for a wide range of prints.
It is suitable for paper thin and medium thickness.

□■ Coarse core 12cm (¥12,000)・13cm (¥15,000)

This type of baren is good for tsubushi (flat color) and suitable for thicker paper.
The cord is twisted with two types of threads to make it more uneven, which enhance the effectiveness of rubbing.

□■ Fine core 12cm(¥17,000)・13cm (¥23,000)

This type of baren is quite similar to the Hon Baren Fine core.
It is the most suitable for printing delicately carved areas and for thin paper.

 □■   Soft Murasaki, Medium core 12cm (¥16,000)・13cm (¥22,000)

This type of baren is soft as feather and seldom leaves baren marks.
It is suitable for printing delicately carved area.

 □■   Soft Murasaki, Fine core  12cm (¥21,000)・13cm (¥28,000)
This type of baren is the most suitable for printing extremely delicate lines. Try this one if you aren’t satisfied with the result of Soft Murasaki Medium cord.

□■ Super Murasaki 12.5cm (¥22,000)

This type of baren gives the most powerful effect among of all from the Murasaki Baren series. Try it and experience the feeling of surprise once this all means.




KIKUHIDE's HON-BAREN is KIKUHIDE's finest baren that follows the traditional manufacturing method of Ukiyo-e, which has been handed down since the Edo period.

HON-BAREN's ATEGAWA and bamboo skin core provide a very delicate texture that is
irreplaceable. It is difficult to tell in words the difference in the finish of the substitute BAREN and HON-BAREN.

The BAREN core uses the only variety of bamboo skin in Japan.It has been regarded as the best material since the Edo period. ATEGAWA is made by laminating 50 or more Japanese papers with special glue.

It's a very persevering task, and it takes more than eight months to complete. To finish, paste a silk cloth and apply Japanese lacquer to make it look beautiful.

All the work is handmade over time, so it will be expensive, but I am confident that you will be satisfied with the
beautiful print taste.

HON-BAREN   Usage and price (13cm in diameter)


 Coil (cord diameter)
 ¥ Price

Coil sample

Coil feature and usage





(about 5.5mm)



Efficient for wide areas and thick paper. Good for flat colour printing (Betazuri).





(about 4.5mm)


Standard and most versatile type. Best with paper of thin and medium  thickness. Not suitable for ‘Betazuri’ on thick paper.




(about 4.0mm)


Best suited for delicately carved areas or with thin paper.
Baren specifically designed for use on fine and delicately carvedblocks.




extra fine

(about 3.2mm)


Best suited for extremely delicately carved lines and areas.




(about 5.3mm)


This Baren is very versatile.
The cross section of the cord is nearly circular and less likely to leave striations. Although it is not specifically intended for 'Betazuri' printing, it can be used for this bincreasing the pressure applied. A very useful Baren.






(about 4.5mm)



Choose this rather than the 12-medium if you intend to work
on a more delicate scale. Best if you want to avoid striations. Also good for wood engraving.




(about 6.7mm)


Plenty of power for printing ‘'Betazuri' on thick papers.
Striations visible at first are gradually submerged into the colour. Kikuhide’s best 'Betazuri' baren. 






(about 4.6mm)



Try this if you need full power for printing 'Betazuri',
but wish to avoid striations.







■ About HON-BAREN in Japan


From the famed ukiyo-e, pictures of the floating world, to simple New Year cards, woodblock printing is deeply entrenched in the Japanese person’s experience of art. Every Japanese child has tried out the process in school with a student’s carving kit, rubbing the color onto the paper with a little round tool wrapped in a bamboo skin. This tool is called the baren.

Although at first glance the baren seems nondescript, it has a long history of craftsmanship from the Edo period. At the beginning, printmakers fashioned their own baren but as demand for woodblock prints grew, specialized artisans emerged to produce these instruments. However, there is only one extant book published in 1973 that detailed the manufacturing process of baren. This is because such knowledge was generally passed down orally within the artisan community, from master to apprentice. The second world war all but wiped out this community. Through the unstinting efforts of post-war artisans, the production of baren was slowly revived.

This book is an effort by a contemporary maker of baren to leave a concrete record of its production process, hoping to inspire others to learn how to make it themselves. While the process may at times seem impossibly complex, one can overcome the technical challenges with perseverance. The book shows how several artisanal techniques are drawn upon to create a single object and represents an attempt to fashion a new type of baren. Making a baren is a time-consuming and difficult process. But when it is made well, it will last a lifetime. It is my hope that this book will lead to a better appreciation of this instrument, which is so integral to woodblock printing.

What is a baren?

Carve the picture or text onto a block of wood. Apply pigment. Lay a sheet of paper over the woodblock and transfer the engraved image onto the paper. This sums up the process of woodblock printing, and the last step is where the baren comes in.

In the production process of the ukiyo-e which is synonymous with Japanese woodblock printing, the artist (e-shi) makes an original design (genga) which is then carved onto the woodblocks by engravers (kezuri-shi), and transferred onto paper by the printers (suri-shi). A long production line of artisans work on this product before it is finally published (shuppan, or to emerge from the block). This was also the production method for books before the advent of industrial printing machines. In all of this, the baren played a central role.

In contemporary printmaking, artists and printmakers continue to be connoisseurs of baren as they know that this instrument can make or break their artwork. At the core of the baren is an intricately braided coil of bamboo fibre called the “heart of the baren” (baren-shin), which is covered by a shield (ate-kawa) made of multiple sheets of pressed rice-paper and finally wrapped in another layer of bamboo skin that forms the handle (tsutsumi-kawa). The materials, craftmanship and technique that go into manufacturing this instrument ensure that it in turn produces woodblock prints of an exquisite quality. The artisans of Japan can be proud of having created such an instrument, which is even called by its Japanese name “baren” in foreign lands where woodblock prints are made.

The role of a baren

Appropriately for a medium made famous by “floating world pictures”, water plays an important role in Japanese woodblock printing. First, water-based pigment is spread on a wet woodblock, then an evenly moistened sheet of paper is placed on top of the block, and the baren is rubbed over it to transfer the image from the block to the paper.

Many aspects of this art are unique to Japan, an island country with a high level of humidity. For one, Japanese rice paper (washi) is the perfect vessel for the water-based pigment because of its long, unbreakable fibres. The printmaker needs to have a complete understanding of conditions relating to water – how liquid the pigment is on the woodblock, the amount of moisture on the paper – in order to control the amount of pressure and the direction in which the baren should be rubbed. Only then will the pigment be smoothly absorbed onto the paper to form the perfect printed image.

Amongst Japanese printmakers, there is a term for this printing alchemy – whether the baren is “working” (kiku) or “not working” (kikanai). When the baren is “working”, the pigment is evenly and thoroughly absorbed all the way to the core of the rice paper. When the baren is “not working”, the pigment sits leaden on the surface and does not permeate the paper. What makes a baren “work well”? Its heart must be hard and firm, its shield must be slender but tough and its handle must be sturdy and taut. A baren that “works well” will create that mystical mixing of pigment and water that results in subtle yet deep color, a unique characteristic of woodblock printing.

A final contribution of the baren to the printmaking process is how it guides the printer’s hand over the engraved block. A good baren is able to pick up the nuances in the grooves made by the carver on the woodblock, and help the printer realize these subtleties as the image is printed on the paper. In other words, the role of the baren is to be the eye of the printer’s hand.


Translated by Adeline Yeo