Tatebanko – Paper Diorama


A Short History Of Tatebanko

Tatebanko (Kumiag-e) is the Japanese art of making scenic paper dioramas.  Originally they pictured buildings, Kabuki theater and historical scenes.

Tatebanko began in the the Edo period (1603 - 1868) and was popular through the Meiji Restoration (1868 - 1912).  Afterwards, it fell out of fashion and was nearly forgotten.

Today, it is experiencing a resurgence.  Commercially printed kits are available through tatebanko.com.  You can find patterns and instructions as PDF files which can be easily printed on a home computer.


The construction pieces were originally multicolored woodblock prints. There could be as many as ten sheets of paper in a single kit. The individual pieces are cut from the sheets.  They may be folded and then glued to a paper base to form the scene

A Few Original Tatebanko Prints Are Found In Museums

Original tatebanko prints are now very rare.  The Japanese artist Hokusai created several tatebanko.  The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has three examples of Hokusai's work:

 Tatebanko Resources

These are our most popular paper dioramas:

You can see several examples of classic and modern tatebanko on our Pinterest board.


Tatebanko - Great Wave off Kanagawa

Hokusai: The Great Wave off Kanagawa.


Tunnel Books or Peepshow Books

A Short History Of Tunnel Books

The Europeans developed paper dioramas during the 18th century.  They were first made to resemble a theater stage. 

A later variation replaced the wide stage opening with a small peephole.  The diorama was viewed through the peephole.  This controlled the viewers perspective. 

Tunnel books were often created as souvenirs for special events or tourist attractions.  When the British built a tunnel under the river Thames at London in the 19th century, peepshow books were used to show everyone this marvel.  These books were dubbed tunnel books.  The name stuck and now peepshow books are generally referred to as tunnel books. 


A tunnel book is a set of pages bound by two accordion strips, one on each side.  The scene is viewed through a hole in the cover.  Each page depicts a layer of the scene.  The pages are cut to allow the viewer to see through to the back of the book.  All of the pages work together to create a three dimensional scene. 

Tunnel Books Are Gaining Popularity

Tunnel books are experiencing a renaissance.  Modern artists are reinterpreting them as sculpture.  Not only do they produce an interior view, but the outside of the book is integrated into the piece. 

Tunnel Book Resources

You can see several examples of tunnel books on our Pinterest board


Tunnel Book Construction

Tunnel Book Construction

Paper Dioramas

Paper Diorama Resources

These are our most popular paper dioramas:

You can see several examples of paper dioramas on our Pinterest board