Screening Times: October 4, 8:45pm at Century Larkspur October 6, 12:00 noon at Smith Rafael Film Center

Journey To Hokusai Official Trailer

Indiegogo Campaign #2 Trailer

Highlights from Japan Trip 2018

In October 2018, Tom and I made a successful 3 week trip to Japan filming almost everyday and capturing all the planned scenes, activities, and more. The production phase is almost complete. The final tasks are editing and distribution. We still need to raise funds for the last stretch of our journey and appreciate your support!



Tom Killion has long held a dream – to go to Japan and learn a traditional method of printing by hand. Deeply touched by the artist Hokusai’s prints when he was a child, Tom has for almost 50 years successfully created iconic California landscape prints. This film follows Tom’s journey to Japan to finally learn the traditional technique from Kenji Takenaka -- a 5th generation printer in Kyoto. This film also examines the source of aesthetics found in Japanese art, crafts, and lifestyle.

Journey to Hokusai is a feature-length documentary that intimately follows an artist's creative process and discovery of the origins of his art.  Tom Killion, a woodblock print artist, identifies the 19th century Japanese artist Hokusai as his inspirational master and “the most talented artist ever." When Tom makes his California landscape prints, his most important artistic references are Hokusai's landscape prints. Tom sketches a real landscape just like Hokusai did 200 years ago. He carves woodblocks using Japanese hand tools. But when it comes to printing, Tom uses a German printing press and oil-based ink unlike the traditional method of printing by hand with watercolor ink.

The film follows every step of Tom's journey: sketching a subject outdoors in the western landscape; carving it on woodblocks in his studio, and studying the traditional printing technique with Kenji Takenaka, a 5th generation master printer in Kyoto. 

The film will also explore Japanese aesthetics through Tom's eye. He will visit a few notable places pertaining to woodblock prints: a woodblock print research institute in Kyoto;  a Japanese paper maker in Echizen region whose papermaking history dates back 1500 years; the Manpuku temple in Uji, where a printer has been printing Buddhist scriptures from 60,000 woodblocks for the last 40 years; and a used-book store in Kyoto where original woodblock prints can still be discovered.

"I might fall in love with hand-printing," says Tom in anticipation of his journey. Will he change his creative process after this experience? "Who knows" is Tom’s answer... for now.

About Tom Killion (

Tom was born and raised in Mill Valley, California, on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais. The rugged scenery of Marin County and Northern California inspired him from an early age to create landscape prints using linoleum and wood, strongly influenced by the traditional Japanese Ukiyo-ë style of Hokusai and Hiroshige. He studied History at UC Santa Cruz, where he was introduced to fine book printing by William Everson and Jack Stauffacher. In 1975, he produced his first illustrated book on UCSC's Cowell Press.

In 1977 Tom founded his Quail Press in Santa Cruz, where he published a number of hand made illustrated books including his large folio volume on "The Coast of California" (1979) and a travel book that incorporated his years of work in Africa: "Walls: A Journey Across Three Continents" (1990).  In 2000, Tom published a large-format book, "The High Sierra of California" in collaboration with Pulitzer prize-winning poet Gary Snyder. The two collaborated on two more books published by Heyday Press:  "Tamalpais Walking" (2009) and their award-winning "California's Wild Edge: The Coast in Poetry, Prints and History" (2015).

Tom is also a scholar in African history with a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

About Kenji Takenaka (

Kenji Takenaka is a fifth generation woodblock printing master in Kyoto, Japan. He studied under his father, Seihachi, a fourth generation master printer at Takenaka Mokuhan which was established in 1891. Takenaka Mokuhan is a long-established and masterful woodblock printing business in Kyoto. They have inherited their techniques with a history of 1,200 years in Kyoto, and have evolved into their current company called Takezasado. Since 1891, Takenaka Mokuhan had been passing on their traditional printing techniques for over 100 years -- from master to master. The fifth master, Kenji Takenaka, established Takezasado with the purpose of “inheriting these ancient printing techniques to pass them to the future generations, and not only by preserving those techniques, but also by thinking about how they can evolve.” He creates new works by applying his masterful techniques, and continues to search for new possibilities in contemporary woodblock printing. The original design and colors of Takezasado have been recognized as modern art, and have been widely acclaimed. 

Filmmaker: Chikara Motomura (

A Japanese native, Chikara has spent nearly 35 years in New York, Hawaii, and in the San Francisco Bay area as a freelance Director, Cinematographer, and Editor for various Japanese television networks, including NHK, Japan’s public television. Chikara also was a principal collaborator on 14 independent films with Rob Nilsson, a Berkeley-based Sundance/Cannes award-winning filmmaker.

Since 2011, Chikara has partnered with Paul Zehrer for PotentialSF -- working as Co-Producer, Cinematographer, and Co-Editor on numerous award-winning films including “Why Waldorf?”, “Preparing for Life”, and “Being Seen”. Recently Chikara was a Co-Cinematographer for "The Test and The Art of Thinking," a documentary feature about the SAT exam.

Production Schedule


July - September: Film Tom sketching outdoors and carving woodblocks at his studio in California.

October: Film Tom's trip to Japan.


January: Film a Japanese papermaker in Kyoto, Japan.

February - June: Edit the film and trailer.

April - July: Apply to film festivals; expand social media outreach.