Aso noyaki

Portrait of Shiga Naoya

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Aso noyaki 阿蘇野焼き

by Sekino Jun'ichirō, 1980

Portrait of a Boy (artist's son)

IHL Cat. #2237

About This Print

Sekino has captured, in this single print, the many colors of grassland burning on the meadows of Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan.

While this collection's print did not come with its portfolio cover, as originally issued, the engraving on the cover is reproduced below. A printed text by the well-known travel writer Okada Kishū (b. 1926) was included.

Portolio cover
自刻限定版画作品 self-carved limited edition work
<阿蘇野焼き> Aso Noyaki
版画  / 関野準一郎 woodblock print/Sekino Jun’ichirō 
文 /  岡田喜秋 text /by Okada Kishū [travel writer]

Burning of the Grasslands on Aso

Noyaki (野焼き) isthe name given to the process of the controlled burningof the grasslands of Aso (the largest active volcano in Japan). Grassland burninghas been documented for over a 1000 years in and around the Aso caldera. Theburning prevents shrubs and trees from taking over the land and so preservesthe grasslands not only for the cattle and horses that graze there but also asa unique landscape for Aso’s visitors.

For a lovely video of the grasslands burning on Aso see

Where there's a spark, there's green tourism

Source: excerpted from the article appearing in the THE JAPAN TIMES MARCH 21, 2001 by Stephanie Gartelman

Aso's landscape was formed by volcanic activity around 50,000 years ago. Forests once cover these 1,000 meter-high plateaus, but cultivation of the area over centuries by humans created the present-day grassy plains.

Culling forests for agricultural purposes is usually associated with environmental destruction. But according to environmental groups, including the Kyushu branch of the Environmental Agency, Aso’s well-being today depends on cultivation practices such as noyaki. If the practices are abandoned, the land does not return to its original state; instead, a heavy buildup of susuki (Japanese pampas) grass results. Extremely slow to decompose, buildups of susuki do not return sufficient nutrients to the soil. Soil quality degrades, leading to land erosion after about four or five years, as has been observed at some properties in the area.

Noyaki is by no means unique to Aso or Japan. Burning off the dead pampas growth encourages new growth, and the resulting healthy roots help nurture the soil and prevent land erosion. Sound grasslands and soil form part of Aso’s ecosystem. Because rainfall is filtered by soil and tree roots and then drawn into rivers and lakes, the health of this “filter” is essential, especially since many of Kyushu’s major rivers are sourced from the Aso region.

The sight of the several-kilometer-long walls of noyaki fire moving across Aso’s hills at a rate of around 180 meters per minute, billowing from the heat of 660- to 800-degree flames, is an awesome one. A grueling task, noyaki requires about 7,600 workers to burn over 10,000 hectares of land every March and October and clear around 640 km of firebreaks in advance.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #2237
 Title Aso noyaki 阿蘇野焼き
 Sekino Jun’ichirō (1914 - 1988)
Jun. Sekino in pencil
 Seki seal 
 Publication Date 1980
 Edition 61/100
 Publisher self-published
 Carver self-carved
 Printer printed by one of the artist's studio printers
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent
 Genre sosaku hanga (creative prints)
 Miscellaneous paper watermarked with artist's name in center of bottom margin
 H x W Paper 16 5/8 x 21 5/8 in. (42.2 x 55.1 cm)
 H x W Image 12 5/8 x 18 in. (32.1 x 45.7 cm)
 Collections This Print 
 Reference Literature 
latest revision:
2/1/2020 created