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No.38 Dawn inside the Yoshiwara

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Reference »  Blog
 
 
On the fourteenth day of the third month, 1701, the young lord of Ako province, Asano Naganori, drew his sword in a corridor of Edo castle and attempted to kill Kira Yoshinaka, a shogunal protocol official. Asano's motivation is unclear and Kira was only slightly wounded, but the shogunal authorities responded severely because the incident had occurred within the precincts of the Shogun's castle. Asano was ordered to commit ritual suicide that same day, his domain was confiscated and his retainers were disbanded, becoming 'wave men', or masterless samurai. Not only did Kira escape punishment; much to the disgust of the Ako retainers and large sections of samurai opinion, he was also praised for the 'restraint' he had shown in not responding with his own sword. For almost two years the former retainers of Asano went their secret plans. Then, one snowy night in the twelfth month of 1702, forty-seven of them, led by the senior retainer, Oishi Kuranosuke*, launched a surprise attack on Kira's mansion at Honjo in Edo. They killed Kira, cut off his head, marched across the city to the temple of Sengaku to present the head to the grave of their dead lord and then surrendered to the authorities. After weeks of debate within the government, these 'righteous samurai' were condemned to death, but permitted the honour of committing ritual suicide. They buried in graved surrounding Asano's at Sengaku Temple which still exists.
*In the literature, theatre and art his name was changed to Oboshi Yuranosuke. Their names had to be changed to evade official intervention in those days. The young man in the print is his son, Oishi Chikara (Oboshi Rikiya Yoshikane).
 
                            
  

Hiroshige Ando (1797-1858)


150 years ago 16 students and 3 teachers left for the UK from Satsuma (Kagoshima today). The main purpose was to study the cutting-edge Western industries and culture. It was a dangerous journey as they might not come home. It was illegal since the closed door policy (Sakoku) adopted by the government was in operation, which didn't allow any foreigner to enter and any Japanese to leave the county. But they made their decisions out of their love for their country, so Japan could gain Western knowledge and become a strong nation. This poem was composed by one of the students. 

   Leaving here for the country’s sake, I have to say good bye to you. 


 





The main gate of Myojingu, Shiba

 Hiroshige III (1842-1894)


The city of Edo was generally divided into two main areas. One was a hilly plateau to the north and west, the residential area for the nobles or government officials. And the another was a low-lying waterfront area criss-crossed by rivers and canals, the residential area for the common people. Shiba is located in this area.

In the dock area, workers rush to and fro unloading a multitude of different goods from the boats tied up at the docks. Purchasing agents from the wholesale "companies" negotiate with the ship owners as they watch the dock workers and unload their cargoes. They keep careful accounts of the cargo unloaded. In most cases, money does not change hands when ships are unloaded. Instead, the seller and the buyer exchange lists of the cargo delivered. These lists are stamped with the hanko (ink stamp) of both parties, and serve as a formal contract. The seller can collect payment later, by simply showing the stamped list of the cargo they delivered.





Lady in the snow


She is a florist as she is carrying the flowers on her back. The vendors like her  were popular in Edo (today's Tokyo) during the Edo period (1603-1868). They covered a wide range of the items, such as fish, water, vegetable, medicine, clothes, flowers, books, ceramics and so on. But they had to get the license issued by the government. 

At the end of the year you can find many vendors selling the food or ornaments for the New Year's Day. It is one of the most typical sights on a winter's day


 




Eel and red rockfish at Lake Suwa, Shinshu province

Hiroshige II (1826-1869)


 

The lakeside of the lake decorated with flowers of each season has been developed into a popular hiking course. In addition, the lake is also well-known as a sacred place where a god descends once a year. When the winter cold is severe, there appears a glistening white road on the frozen surface of Lake Suwa. The identity of holy omiwatari is a crack in ice that is generated due to the temperature difference between daytime and nighttime. It is said that the social conditions and crop harvests of the year are predicted based on the conditions of the crack. 

As you can see the people fishing in the print, Lake Suwa in winter is also popular for the fishing of lake smelt, eel and red rockfish. There are multiple rental shops for boats and fishing equipment around fishing spots. So people can enjoy fishing casually even if they do not take anything. 




Kansagu Shrine at Lake Tazawa

Hasui Kawase (1883-1957)

The shrine in the centre of the print was designed to look as if it were floating on the surface of the lake, Tazawa. Long ago, the shrine was built on the location of a large tree in the lake that was said to be floating. This small shrine was named 'Kanza-gu' in 1769 by a magistrate's officer in Akita, and it is also familiar with 'Ukiki-jinja' (Floating shrine).

Akita is located in the north east of Japan, where it has deep snow during winter season.

Hasui often designed snow landscapes of various places in Japan. The technique he used here with snow flakes that are blank spaces in the printing, contrast with the red shrine and blue surface in the dark background was extremely effective.



Kabuki Actors in the snow scene

Kunisada Utagawa I (1786-1864)


From Kabuki play, Chiyonoharu tosae no saya ate, played at Ichimura-za in 1861. Kawarazaki Gonjuro as Chishimakaja, Ichimura Uzaemon as Sasaki Keinosuke, and Nakamura Shikan as Umezu Kamon.

Kunisada I is well known as a kabuki actors prints. He collaborated with the publishers and actors to publish the commercial prints. In addition to this he created a new print genre, Genji-e, depicting the images based on the Tale of Genji.

Saya ate - "scabbard brushing", has two meaning, one is sword fighting and the another one is connection in love. It often happened to two men ended up in saya ate over a woman in those days. Many writers created the stories based on these events.





Hiroshi Yoshida was one of the greatest artists of the shin-hanga style, and most widely known for his landscape prints. Yoshida travelled widely, using the traditional Japanese Woodblock Print style to depict the places he saw in his travels, including the Taj Mahal, the Swiss Alps and the Grand Canyon.

'Snow in Kashiwabara' is one of Yoshida Hiroshi's rare snow scenes. Kashiwabara or Kashiwara is located in south east of Osaka. Unlike the centre of Osaka, is is a remote and rural area surrounded by mountains and other natural beauty.

The printing process of this item was done by the artist and signed by himself.




Hiroshige II (1826-1869)


He was the chief student of the great master, Hiroshige I (1797-1858), and he took over his name after Hiroshige I passed away. He also depicted many beautiful landscape prints as his master did.


Around A.D.951, Akasaka Hikawa-jinja was built in Edo. The shrine structures were reconstructed to the current location, Akasaka, in 1730 under the patronage of Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684-17581) who was the eighth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. This became Yoshimune's personal shrine. There are three god enshrined in the shrine, god who protects us against danger, god who brings romance, and god who protects our family.





Snow at Hie Shrine

Hasui Kawase (1883-1957)


Known for his exquisite landscape prints, Kawase Hasui was one of the most talented shin hanga artists of the early 20th century. He often travelled and filled sketchbooks with his drawings of scenic places around Japan.

Hie shrine was designated as a first class government shrine before the second world war, and highly respected place of worship for the people of Tokyo.

The history of this Hie shrine goes back to the beginning of the Kamakura period(1185-1333) when a man named Edo built Hie shrine for the guardian deity of his residence on grounds of the present Imperial Palace.

 

Regrettably the shrine buildings were burnt down in the bombing of Tokyo during the second world war, in 1945. The present shrine buildings were constructed in 1967 with contributions from numerous parishioners and worshippers.






 



 

To kick off the countdown to Christmas we'll be showing a months worth of festive prints!

To start we have Kintai Bridge by Hiroshige II. In the city of Iwakuni, the Kintai Bridge has been the subject of many print artists, including Hokusai and Hiroshige I. The bridge was built in 1673, spanning the Nishiki River in a series of five wooden arches. The bridge is located on the foot of Mt.Yokoyama, at the top of which lies Iwakuni Castle.

Kikkou Park, which includes the bridge and castle, is a popular tourist destination in Japan, particularly during the Cherry Blossom festival in the spring and the autumn colour change of the Japanese Maples. It was declared a National Treasure in 1922.





 

Utagawa Hirokage (c. 1854-1867)


This Halloween we are taking the opportunity to show off Utagawa Hirokage’s bizarre Battle of the Vegetables print. Here we see an army of various vegetables lead by General Pumpkin trying the push the daemonic fish-men forces back into the sea. Hirokage was a student of the great Landscape artist Hiroshige, and while most of his prints were landscape and city scenes in the traditional Hiroshige style. However in 1859 The Great Battle of the Vegetables and the Fish was published which was a notable break both for its style and subject matter. More interestingly, the print was likely commissioned as part of a public educational campaign – in 1858 and year before the print was published, a cholera epidemic broke out in Japan. At the time it was thought cholera was spread by consuming contaminated seafood, so it would appear that this print was used as a propaganda tool to discourage people from eating seafood by daemonising them, and making people prefer to eat vegetables which were considered safe to eat. This was common practice during the Edo period for Ukiyo-e prints to be used in this manner for spreading information to the public, as they were relatively quick and easy to produce and were considered the art for the common man.




Maple leaves at Ushitaki, Senshu Province

One Hundred Famous Views of Provinces

Hiroshige Utagawa II (1826-1869)

This print is one from the series ' One Hundred Famous Views of Provinces, Shokoku Meisho Hyakkei' printed by Uoya Eikichi in 1861-1862. It is thought to be his best works of art. He portrayed 81 places in this series, and his print making technique was inherited from his master as demonstrated in each of his prints, as evident from features such as well-balanced perspective.

In this picture you can see the autumn coloured maple leaves and a flowing waterfall running from the mountain. Senshu is today known as Osaka prefecture and Ushitaki is a mountainous area located in the south part of Osaka and is is well known to public as a spot to see the beautiful maple leaves since ancient times. Every autumn this area is full of people who still today enjoy viewing the beautiful scenery.

We will take part in LAPADA Art and Antique Fair on 23 - 28 September, 2014 at Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London. We will showcase a wide selection of genuine Japanese artworks, and some of the pieces will be the autumnal ones in concert with the theme of this fair, a maple leave. Our stand is C24, and we look forward to seeing you at the fair.




Court Ladies in Chiyoda Palace

Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)

This series published through 1984 - 1896 depicted the life of the court ladies living in the women's quarters of the shogun's palace called 'Ooku' before the Meiji restoration.

The series are all triptychs that focus on the day to day activities of the women who resided in secluded palace. As a 'beauty' series, the focus is on the women and the fashion of the times, with detailed patterned kimonos being a prominent feature of many of the prints.

The Ooku itself is a fascinating aspect of Edo period court life and politics. Built in 1618 as part of Edo castle, the Ooku, or "great interior," housed the women of the Tokugawa clan, from the Shogun's mother to his wife and concubines. Strict rules prevented residents from fraternizing with outsiders, or leaving the grounds of Edo Castle without permission. This system lasted for nearly 200years.



Bon Festival Moon (Bon no Tsuki)

One Hundred Apectes of the Moon

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)

Two boys and three girls in summery kimono, yukata, dance the bon odori with their fans as they form a curve that leads to a full moon. The month is July, and people are in high spirits to welcome the ghosts of their respective ancestors to the world of the living. This print was drawn in the Shijo style, marked by the simplicity of the figures and the lines they are composed of.



Moon of the Milky Way (Ginga no Tsuki)

One Hundred of Aspects of the Moon

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka(1839-1892)

July 7th is called Tanabata or Star Festival in Japan. The festival is baed on a legend that the Cowherd Star (Altair) and Weaver Star (Vega). separted by the Milky Way, can meet just once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. Tanabata originated with a tale called Kikkoden more than 2000 years ago. Once there was a weaver princess named Orihime and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi. After they got together, they were together all the time and forgot their jobs. The king was angry and separated them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa Rive (Milky Way, and the king allowed them to meet only once a year on July 7th.

In Japan people write their wishes on narrow strips of coloured paper and hang them, along with other paper ornaments, on bamboo branches placed in the backyards or entrances of their homes.



Asakusa River, Pine of Success and Oumayagashi

One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Hiroshige Ando (1797-1858)

It's a warm and starry summer night. Two ferries pas each other in the river. Hanging out over the river from the upper left is the most famous of the several pine trees named in the title of this series, the Pine of Success (Shubi no Matsu). To the left in the foreground we can see a roofed pleasure boat (yanebune). In the bow we find two pairs of clogs. At first glance the green blinds of the yanebune seem just normal lowered blins. But if you look more carefully you will be able to find out it is possible to make out the silhouette of a woman's head and shoulders behind the lowered blinds. This effect was achieved by underprinting the form of the silhouette in a shade of green slightly lighter than that of the blind itself.