Kihei Sasajima was a woodblock print artist active during the 20th century. Born in Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture, Sasajima took drawing classes while he studied to become a teacher in Tokyo. Between 1927 and 1945, he worked as a teacher and studied printmaking on the side. In 1935, he attended a course led by Unichi Hiratsuka, a metor who is thought to have influenced Sasajima’s tendency towards monochrome compositions. Three years later, he became the student of Shiko Munakata, another influential figure in the Sosaku Hanga movement. Sasajima first exhibited at the Kokuga-kai in 1940.
By 1945, he had left his position as an elementary school teacher to pursue printmaking full time. In 1948, The Mitsukoshi Theater commissioned a series based on their Kabuki performances and Sasajima became a member of the Japan Print Association. He left the organization just four year later to found the Japanese Woodblock Print Academy (Nihon Hanga-in) with Munakata. Sasajima rose to international prominence when two of his prints were published in Oliver Statler’s Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn (1956), and his work was included in an exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints in Yugoslavia and in the Tokyo Biennials held between 1957 and 1966. Sasajima joined Okiie Hashimoto in a two-man show in Washington D.C. in 1959 and he fell ill that same year. Weakened from his illness, Sasajima developed a new technique. He drew inspiration from stone rubbing, using a press to press the paper deep in the cut block, then applying ink the raised areas. This technique gives his prints a distinct three-dimensionality. In 1967, he published a book of his essays on art titled Itchin.