Van Gogh had a romanticised image of Japanese print artists. He saw them as something akin to monks, fully at one with nature, cutting and printing their woodcuts in complete isolation.
However, the reality was that the ukiyo-e were a thriving commercial industry. A streamlined process meant that it was possible to mass produce thousands of woodcuts per design. The publisher commissioned the artist, whose design was realised on a huge scale in studios packed with draughtsman, block cutters and printers.
Once the artist had completed his design, it was stuck to a block of wood that had been sanded to make it smooth. The remainder of the process required the expertise of various craftsmen, who had to work as a well-oiled machine. One craftsman started by cutting out the rough outline, before the details were added by another craftsman (or multiple other craftsmen).
Numerous blocks were required to produce a print: one for each colour. All of these blocks had to be printed exactly on top of each other, so the printer had to work everything out precisely. He also needed to print the surfaces evenly and ensure that the colours were aligned correctly.