Speechless. Just Speechless.

The one good reason I can come up with for wanting to live longer is to have time, more time to discover all the amazing artists in the world. Ippitsuryu. Did you know about this? I didn’t, and I haven’t managed to pick my jaw up just yet. Truly amazing technique, unique. And so beyond impressive, I don’t have words, I’m right back to being speechless. Ippitsuryu, the art of painting single stroke dragons. Look at this:

WOW, right? I could watch that 10 more times a least, and probably will. It’s like watching magic happen.


Fumiko Takase holding up a completed ippitsuryu painting.

In Japan’s Nikko region there exists an artistic tradition known as ippitsuryu: ippitsu (sometimes called hitofude) meaning single-stroke and ryu meaning dragon. It’s a technique, passed down from generation to generation and kept tightly in the family, of creating the flowing, river-like body of the dragon in just a single stroke.

The artist will typically begin by creating a detailed depiction of the head. Once that is completed the artist moves on to the single-stroke-body. Here, the large brush slowly traverses the canvas, making gentle twists and turns, never once being lifted up until the body is complete. Later, the artist goes back and adds details like whiskers and claws.

The current proprietor to the tradition is claimed by Fumiko Takase, the 3rd in the Takase Family. The tradition is carried on by her siblings and she is also training her son. The tradition, however, is not without controversy. Just steps from Takase’s shop and studio in Nikko is another family, the Kousyu Family, who also practices the same tradition.

According to the Takase Family, a member of the Kousyu Family stole the technique several years ago and then opened up shop claiming to be legitimate proprietors. The Takase Family has a detailed account on their website as to how the technique was stolen. They also have a family tree showing the descendants. The Kousyu Family has no mention of this on their website.

There’s much more at Spoon & Tamago. Who doesn’t love amazing dragons?


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    This is impressive. I wonder what kind of compensating moves they have if they see the brush slightly misbehaving and other such issues. I suppose some errors could be dealt with by the dragon’s tail going over them.

  2. says

    Amazing. This reminded me of one anecdote from the short time I tried to study art at the uni. One of the lecturers told us this story, supposedly from Japan. I hope you do not mind me reproducing it here from memory to the best of my ability:

    Two men, a stone mason renown for his strength and and a painter, got into a dispute whose work is more difficult to master. They agreed to perform the greatest feat they are capable off and settle the dispute thusly.
    The stone mason went into the mountains, cracked a big rough stone off a cliff and carried it all the way to the willage, where he dumped it in front of the painters house. Nobody in the village was able to lift the stone and the mason requested the painter either come forth with his work or concede. The painter replied that he is not finished yet.
    Days went by and the stone mason came each day by to knock on the painters door and demand to see the works. Each day he got the same reply: “I am not done yet”.
    One day the painter replied “I am done” and invited the stone mason into the house. There was a single scrol of paper, as high as a man, and on it was a picture of stringed yumi in full size.
    The stone mason started to laugh, “Thats it? A picture of a bow? I guess I won, everyone can do that! What took you so long?”
    The painter showed him a huge pile of discared pictures in the corner of the room, and explained:”You see, I wanted to paint the whole bow with a single brush stroke and with a perfectly staight string. As you see it is quite big and the string is a single, regular thin line. Here you see how I was trying to find the right size and form of the brush to use. Here you see pictures where I started on the bow but my brush blotched a bit. Here I accidentally started at the wrong place so the bow would not have correct proportion if drawn full. Here you see that I almost got it right, but I had too little ink on the brush so I did not manage the whole string. Here I almost got it right but my hand trembled a little towards the end. Only today I finally got everything right. What you see is not only a picture of a bow, but a picture drawn in a single brush stroke.”
    The stone mason bowed his head and conceded defeat, acknowledging that a true craft is much more than a lot of strength.

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