Mishima Yonosuke and Arai Shujiro, Japanische Dichtungen, Weissaster, 1894

Artists: Mishima Yonosuke, Arai Shujiro

Title: Japanische Dichtungen, Weissaster: Ein romantisches Epos nebst anderen Gedichten

Date: 1894

Medium: Woodblock print on crepe paper

Publisher: Takejiro Hasegawa

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection Box 39 Item 6 (https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502718403681)


After an introductory text from the translator Karl Florenz, this book includes a German language translation of Kōjo Shiragiku no Uta, a Japanese epic poem published in 1889 by the author Ochiai Naobumi. Naobumi’s epic tells the tale of the titular Weissaster (White Aster), a young girl from a remote village who sets off on a quest to find her father after he fails to return from a hunting expedition. Following the seventy-two-page epic poem, eight shorter poems are included. The entire book is lavishly illustrated with multi-color woodblock prints by Japanese artists. Mishima Yonosuke illustrated most of the book, including the tale of Weissaster, while Arai Shujiro provided illustrations for the poems. Perhaps the most curious feature of the book is its paper. The book is printed on crepe paper, a wrinkly and seemingly dainty variety that became especially popular in the Meiji Period. Crepe paper was formed by inserting paper into molds after printing and illustration was complete, both reducing size and, surprisingly, increasing durability of the book.

Japanische Dichtungen is the result of a collaborative effort between two countries, two continents, and two publishers: printing, illustration, and paper were provided by the publishing firm of Takejiro Hasegawa in Tokyo, while C.F. Amelang Verlag in Leipzig ostensibly provided financial capital as well as arranging translation by Florenz. While the illustrators Yonosuke and Shujiro remain enigmatic, Hasegawa and Florenz are well-known as antiquarians and publishers in the Meiji Period. Takejiro Hasegawa extensively published English, French, and German language translations of popular Japanese folk tales that satisfied Western desires for Japanese literature while providing students in the modernizing Japan with abundant material for learning western languages. The translator, Karl Florenz, was a pioneer of German-language Japanology for his publication and translation of Japanese literature, becoming the first professor of Japanology in Germany at The University of Hamburg.

Other copies of this book are at the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek) and the Library of the University of Regensburg (Universitätsbibliothek Regensburg)

Selected Reading

Guth, Christine M. E. “Hasegawa’s Fairy Tales: Toying with Japan.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 53/54 (2008): 266-81.

Hayashida, Yukari. “Wrinkles in Time: Crepe-Paper Books in Watson Library | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Accessed March 21, 2020. https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/in-circulation/2016/crepe-paper.


Sharf, Frederic A. “Selected Bibliography of the Publications of Takejiro Hasegawa.” Peabody Essex Museum Collections 130, no. 4 (Oct 01, 1994).


Posted by Nick Purgett

May 10th, 2020