Art / Artist / Crafts / Japanese Culture / People / Tohoku / Tradition

Tenkoku (seal engraving) on Japanese paper 和紙に篆刻


from Zhuangzi
7.5cm sq , Qingtian stone
Produced in November 2011

Yosuke Kisou has a passion of Japanese paper and his unique variety of art works are using the paper.

Since he was university student, he has been in Yamagata prefecture in Tohoku, Where is one of damaged area from earthquake in 2011.

He has been attracted traditional hand made productions in Yamagata, especially Japanese paper.

“Making Japanese Paper in Tohoku 東北で和紙を作る”

I would like to write more his activities and works later on.

“Art Exhibition Helps Local Craft in Tohokuアート展示が東北の工芸を救う”

This time, introducing his Tenkoku (seal engraving) works on the Japanese paper.


Title: Boshi (twenty-fifth of the sexagenary cycle)
It is the sexagenary cycle of 2008.
Produced in November 2007


Title: “Toku” Signature and seal mark for Oyama Tokujirou, Japanese Painter
1cm sq
Produced in December 2012

Yosuke Kiso‘s 

When I was eighteen, I started learning Tenkoku art and I have worked in this art form for the last twenty years.  I do this in my spare time, so it is very slow-growing. I would like to keep learning at this pace without copying famous artists.

I would like to show you some of the best examples of recently produced Tenkoku.
By Yosuke Kiso


Title: “Hikatsukaigyoku” from Lao-tse
7.5cm sq , Qingtian stone
Produced in July 2010

What is the Tenkoku?:

The Tenkoku (seal engraving) constitutes the ancient style of handwriting of kanji called “Tensho tai (seal engraving style writing)”.

Tenkoku is normally done using stone that has one or more Japanese characters carved into the face of stone. It’s a form of calligraphy art.

This type of calligraphy art came from China, particularly the Japanese Hiragana which was designed and arranged from “Soushotai”, the cursive script of Chinese characters. On the other hand, Tenkoku developed from a uniquely Japanese design aesthetic, completely different from China.

Generally, Tensho tai (seal engraving style writing) is the first common writing, that is called ”Shou ten(small seal script)”, in Shin era, China (around the year221 BC).

After the Shin era came the Kan era, and the “Inten” script, designed to be easy to occupy a square. It’s the most used style of Tenkoku art work.

The form is generally the square. However there are circle, oval, and rectangle forms as well as a natural stone form.

The seals can be made by carving out the character, leaving the background uncarved (called “Hakumonin” – a classic form), or by carving the background to leave the character proud (called “Shumonin”)

A unique variation, mixing both Hakumonin and Shumonin was called “Shuhakukongouin” was designed to look confusing (which it was).

In the past, seals were used by powerful and influential men to authorise acts on their behalf, to validate possession and for sealing confidential documents.

Later, it came to be used as a signature (“Rakkanin”)  on paintings to prove authorship.  Today, it has become an art form in itself, often being shown in large calligraphy exhibits.

By Yosuke Kiso

If you want to order your original seal engraving, contact to us.

More works at


Title: “Muyounoyou” from Zhuangzi
4.5cm sq , Qingtian stone
Produced in June 2011


Title: “Muyounoyou” from Zhuangzi
4.5cm sq , Qingtian stone
Produced in June 2011


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