Kōrin gashiki is a book of Ogata Kōrin designs as drawn by Aikawa Minwa. Though there is little biographical information available about Minwa, he is well regarded for his book, Manga hyaku-jo (Sketchbook of One Hundred Women, 1814).[1] [2] His work also appears in an anthology of Kyoto artists, Keijo gaen (A Garden of Pictures by Kyoto Artists, 1814).

Artist: Aikawa Minwa (active 1806–1821), after Ogata Kōrin (1658-1716)
Title: Kōrin gashiki (Kōrin’s painting style)
Date: 1818
Publisher: Kikuya Kihei, Kyoto.
Description: 1 vol. with pouch binding; modern case lined with an illustrated sleeve
Medium: Woodblock printed ink and color on paper; paper covers
Format: hanshibon
Dimensions: 25.6 x 18.2 x 1.1 cm
Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Arthur Tress Collection. Box 10, Item 6.
Gift of Arthur Tress

Kōrin gashiki is a book of Ogata Kōrin designs as drawn by Aikawa Minwa. Though there is little biographical information available about Minwa, he is well regarded for his book, Manga hyaku-jo (Sketchbook of One Hundred Women, 1814).[1] [2] His work also appears in an anthology of Kyoto artists, Keijo gaen (A Garden of Pictures by Kyoto Artists, 1814).

With Kōrin gashiki, Minwa joins Sakai Hōitsu and Nagamura Hōchu, two leading Rinpa artists of the nineteenth century, in their use of woodblock print books to disseminate and revive Kōrin designs and the Rinpa aesthetic for a new generation, while at the same time claiming roles in the succession of artists.[3] That Minwa’s book follows Hoitsu’s Kōrin hyakuzu (One Hundred Paintings by Kōrin, 1815)[4] and Hōchū’s Kōrin gafu (Album of Kōrin Pictures, 1802)[5] indicates Kōrin’s renewed popularity and a demand for his work.

These books were also intended for other artists to learn from and emulate the Rinpa style. Rinpa (school of Kōrin) was not a family school in the traditional sense, but an aesthetic carried through generations by artists who appreciated his work. Hōitsu referred to the group of artists working in the Kōrin style as the Ogata Lineage, while the term Rinpa came into use in the Meiji period. Kōrin, in turn, found his inspiration in seventeenth-century artists Tawaraya Sōtatsu and Hon’ami Kōetsu. While their influence is apparent in Kōrin’s deft brushwork, details are further simplified, perspective is often abstracted, large areas are flattened with gold leaf or patterning, and his palette intensely colored. We see these characteristics become more pronounced with each generation of Rinpa artists.

Many of the images in Minwa’s book employ other artistic techniques characteristic of Rinpa, such as tarashikomi (“dripping in” of wet into wet) and mokkotsu (“boneless” drawing, without outlines). Motifs common to Rinpa are elegantly represented in this book as well, with an emphasis on the natural world: waves, morning glories, poppies, chrysanthemum, blossoming trees, sparrows, plovers, puppies, rabbits, horses, and monkeys; as well as some figurative scenes from classical literature, and Jurōjin, one of the seven lucky gods, shown with a crane, both symbols of longevity.[6] While Minwa’s drawings appear effortless, and recall the style of Hōchū’s Kōrin gafu,[7] his deer are rendered in a less painterly fashion[8]—perhaps in an attempt at mokkotsu, or a developing style—producing a curious hiccup in the line that leads from Sōtatsu to Sekka.

Detail from a scroll by Tawaraya Sōtatsu (painter) and Hon’ami Kōetsu (calligrapher), 1610s.
Detail from a screen by Ogata Kōrin, early 18th c.
Woodblock print from Kōrin gafu by Nagamura Hōchu, 1802.
Woodblock print from Ōson gafu by Sakai Hōitsu, 1817.
Woodblock print from Kōrin gashiki by Aikawa Minwa, 1818.
Detail of Meadow at Kasuga from Momoyogusa by Kamisaka Sekka, 1909.


[1] Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987, p. 665.

[2] Box 23, item 18.

[3] Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.

[4] Box 14, item 13

[5] Box 8, item 11 contains a newer edition from 1895.

[6] Carpenter, John T. Designing Nature: the Rinpa Aesthetic In Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art , 2012.

[7] Strangely enough, the sleeve that lines the case for this book is an image from Hōchū’s Kōrin gafu! Perhaps their cases got mixed up.

[8] Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.


Other collections:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Smithsonian Libraries
The British Museum
National Diet Library
The Gerhard Pulverer Collection

Further reading:
Carpenter, John T. Designing Nature: the Rinpa Aesthetic In Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art , 2012.
Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.


Posted by Catherine Gontarek, 23 March 2020


Broadside showing acts in kabuki play

Broadside showing acts in kabuki play

Artist: Unknown

Title: Toji-awase Oden no Kanabumi (The Binding of Oden’s Letters)

Date: ca. 1879

Medium: Woodblock-printed broadside, ink and color on paper

This broadsheet refers to the kabuki play The Binding of Oden’s Letters (Toji-awase Oden no Kanabumi), written by Kawatake Mokuami. The play debuted at the Shintomi-za theater in 1879, and this broadsheet was likely made as a summary to the play. It includes 16 individual panels read from right to left, top to bottom. The first panel in the uppermost right corner identifies the play and its theater, and the 14 before the red square at the bottom left each represent a key scene in the narrative. The red cartouches on the right side of each panel describe the scene and location; above and outside the frame of each panel, within the yellow segment, is a list of roles and associated actors. Dialogue from the scenes is included within panel, and the actor’s costumes display their distinctive crests (mon). This broadsheet may have been made as a guide distributed at the theater or as memorabilia to take home from a performance.

The kabuki play was based on sensational stories about a woman named Takahashi Oden (ca.1848-1879). Oden gained media attention when she was arrested in 1876 under suspicion of cutting the throat of merchant Gotō Kichizō at an inn before fleeing the scene. Oden’s trial spanned nearly 3 years before she was convicted under the Meiji-era justice system. On January 31, 1879, she became one of the last persons in Japan to be officially executed by beheading. The kabuki play based on her story debuted in the Shintomi-za theatre in May of that year.

Comparatively little can be verified about the real Takahashi Oden. Her literary appearances, on the other hand, in gossip serials that appeared in newspapers within days of her death as well as the books and plays that followed, provide a wealth of shifting details about her life. Due to the immediate and sensationalist coverage of her crime, Oden was termed a “poison woman,” by mass media after her alleged poisoning of her sick husband was added to the list of criminal accusations including gross immorality, thievery, and murder. The term “poison woman” or dokufu gained traction in Meiji Japan through publications featuring female criminals (see Marran).

Reporter Kanagaki Robun (1829-1894) wrote The Tale of Demon Takahashi Oden (Takahashi oden yasha monogatari) in 1879; this has become perhaps the best-studied version of Takahashi Oden. It first appeared in the newspaper Kanayomi as a serial called the The story of poison woman Oden (Dofuku oden no hanashi). The serial began two days after Oden was beheaded and its immediacy likely lent to its popularity. It was later expanded into book form. Robun’s work predates the Kabuki play version of Oden by 3 months.

The script for the kabuki play, Toji-awase Oden no kanabumi, that is the reference for this broadsheet remains extant, available digitally in the database maintained by the National Institute of Japanese Literature. The play was organized with six acts, and the panels in the broadsheet line correspond to that work as follows:

Panel 1: Play title and theater
Panel 2: Opening act
Panels 3 and 4: Second act
Panels 5 and 6: Third act
Panels 7 and 8: Interlude performance featuring material unrelated to Oden
Panel 9: Fourth act
Panel 10: Intermediate act
Panel 11: Fifth act
Panels 12, 13, 14, 15: Sixth act

The play has yet to be translated or analyzed in detail but a great deal of attention appears to be given to detailing Takahashi Oden’s life before and during her husband’s illness. In the broadsheet, some panels depict her being harassed by unsavory fellows alongside what appears to be her husband in worsening condition. In a panel midway, Oden is depicted as distressed aboard a boat, hounded by a ghost-like figure—this is likely her husband after his death. The panels following the intermission scenes may depict Oden cohabiting with another man as well as her involvement in his enterprises. The final panels illustrates the climax of the play. In the 12th panel, Oden is seen luring and killing a man on the second floor of an inn, in the 13th panel she is captured by officials on a bridge, in the 14th panel she is standing trial, and in the 15th panel she is sentenced. A study group at the University of Pennsylvania is currently working on a full transcription of the broadsheet.

Other collections: as yet no other copies have been found

Selected Readings:
Christine L. Marran, Poison Woman: Figuring Female Transgression in Modern Japanese Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

Ohashi Yoshiteru, Dokufu densetsu Takahashi Oden to Eriito Gunitachi (Kyoei Shoten, 2013).

Matthew C. Strecher, “Who’s Afraid of Takahashi O-Den? ‘Poison Woman’ Stories and Literary Journalism in Early Meiji Japan.” Japanese Language and Literature, vol. 38, no. 1, 2004, pp. 25–55.

Posted by Caitlin Adkins, April 6, 2022


Artist: Asai Chū 浅井忠 (Japanese,1856 – 1907)

Author: Ikebe Tōen 池邊 籐園 (Japanese, 1861? – 1923)

Title: Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase shita 当世風俗五十番歌合 下

Medium: Full color woodblock book print; ink and color on paper

Publisher: Tokyo: Yoshikawa Hanshichi

Gift of Arthur Tress. Box 33, Item 22, 1 of 2.

Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase, or Fifty Modern Genre Scenes Compared in Verses, is a whimsical, comic, tongue-in-cheek commentary on the societal trends during the modernized Meiji period. It has two volumes containing fifty uta awase composed by a close friend of Asai Chū, Ikebe Tōen. Uta-awase is a form of poetry contest in which each poem contains two competing parts. In Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase, each poem consists of two verses juxtapositioning descriptions of individuals engaged in diverse occupations in traditional Japanese style compared to those presented in modernized Western style. Each pair of verses is followed by a “judgment” prose that declares who was the winner and why. On the other side of Ikebe Tōen’s poems are Asai Chū’s comic satirical illustrations of the contestants. The participants hail from various backgrounds within the shokunin or craftsman class, namely teachers, factory workers, photographers, and so on. The style of Asai Chū’s illustration is said to be influenced by the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus (1896–1967; hiatus 1944–54). Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase is Asai Chū’s best known printed book design.

Asai Chū (1856 – 1907) is known as one of the most prominent Western-style (yōga) painters and teachers in the early Meiji period. Born to a samurai-class family, he was formally trained in the traditional Japanese flower-and-bird painting style. He then moved to Tokyo and became one of the first students at the government established Western-style art focused Technical Fine Arts School. Similar to most of his contemporaries, he studied Western-style oil painting under Italian painter Antonio Fontanesi. An established painter and art educator by 1900, Asai Chū was sent to France to study the techniques of the Impressionism school by the Japanese government. Upon his return two years later, he continued teaching and founded the Kansai Bijutsu-in (the Kansai Arts Institute.) Throughout his life, he taught numerous painters and print-makers who later become prominent characters in the Japanese art world, including Yasui Sōtarō and Umehara Ryūzaburō.


Other copies of this book series:

The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Freer Gallery of Art (vol. 1-2)

San Francisco Public Library (vol. 1-2)

Iwase Bunko Library, Nishio City (vol. 1-2)

Portland Art Museum (vol. 1-2)

Ravicz Collection, Chiba City Museum of Art (vol. 1-2)


Selected Readings:

Hillier, Jack Ronald. The Japanese picture book: a selection from the Ravicz Collection. Harry N Abrams Inc, 1991, pp. 124-125.

Hillier, Jack Ronald. The art of the Japanese book. London: Published for Sotheby’s Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers; New York, 1987, pp. 996-997.

Merritt, Helen. Modern Japanese woodblock prints: the early years. University of Hawaii Press, 1990.


Posted by Yuqi Zhao

November 19th, 2019


Artist: Bunsai Madaki

Title:  Nagasaki miyage 長崎土産 (Souvenirs of Nagasaki)

Date: ca. 1847

Medium: woodblock printed

Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 52, Item 11. See link.

See digital images here.

Publisher: Yamatoya Yūpei

Gift of Arthur Tress

Bunsai Madaki’s Nagasaki miyage (1847) presents images that suggest how much the Japanese had a kind of voyeuristic curiosity towards the “other”[1] during a period of limited contact with the European world. With 2 single-page and 14 double-page illustrations, the volume represents a wide variety of scenes in which both Chinese as well as Dutch people living in Nagasaki are show, but it also includes pictures of ships, animals and other foreign curiosities. The first illustration presents a map of Nagasaki bay, where we can see Chinese and Dutch ships as well as the contours of the Dutch trading post on the island of Deshima. Another impression of this title, held at Waseda University, includes text along with these illustrations; however, the volume shown here does not include this commentary. [2]

Special attention deserves to be given to the double-page illustrations representing both the “OLIFANT” (“Elephant”) and the “Holland vrouw” (“Dutch women”). Text on the same page tells us that the elephant on the left page was brought to Japan in 1810 by the “red hair people,” as the Dutch came to be called. The Dutch woman on the right page has been identified as Mimi de Villeneuve, the nineteen year-old wife of Carl Hubert de Villeneuve, a Dutch painter who came to Nagasaki in 1829 and taught the Japanese painter Kawahara Keiga in Western painting techniques. [3] Commentary highlights the “almost transparent skin,” “deep eyes” and “long nose” of the woman, seen as typical generic features of Dutch women at the time.[4] The portrait of Mimi exemplifies how much she, as a kind of “fetishized other,” appealed to the imagination of both the Japanese artist and viewers. Mimi never set foot on the island of Japan, since she was forced to leave Japan immediately, but her image endured in Japanese visual culture. Her contemporary, Titia Bergsma, became even better known.[5]

The artist Bunsai Madaki was closely related as one of its masters to the publishing house Yamatoya, and this firm flourished from the mid-eighteenth-century until the late-nineteenth-century in Nagasaki.[6] By combining the principles of Western art with Japanese printing techniques, Bunsai Madaki contributed to the development of Japanese woodblock printing in Nagasaki.

Another impression of this manuscript is in the Waseda University (Tokyo). Other volumes can be found in the National Library of Australia (Canberra), the Bristol Museum Galleries Archives (Bristol) and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

Selected Readings

  • Charles R. Boxer, Jan Compagnie in Japan, 1600–1850: An Essay on the Cultural, Artistic and Scientific Influence Exercised by the Hollanders in Japan from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries (Springer, 2013).
  • Gary P. Leupp, Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 (A&C Black, 2003).
  • Michael L. Browne, “Portraits of Foreigners by Kawahara Keiga,” Ars Orientalis, Vol. 15 (1985), pp. 31-45.
  • Simon James Bytheway, “The Arrival of the ‘Modern’ West in Yokohama: Images of the Japanese Experience, 1859–1899” in Life in Treaty Port China and Japan, Donna Brunero and Stephanie Villalta Puig (eds.) (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 247-267.

Posted by Hilda Groen

November 15, 2019

[1] Simon James Bytheway, “The Arrival of the “Modern” West in Yokohama: Images of the Japanese Experience, 1859–1899” in Life in Treaty Port China and Japan, Donna Brunero and Stephanie Villalta Puig (eds.) (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 247-267.

[2] See

[3] Michael L. Browne, “Portraits of Foreigners by Kawahara Keiga”,” Ars Orientalis, Vol. 15 (1985), p. 34.

[4] Gary P. Leupp, Interracial intimacy in Japan: western men and Japanese women, 1543-1900 (A&C Black, 2003), pp. 114-115,

[5] Unlike Mimi, Titia would stay in Japan, however, after a few months she was forced to leave Japan and would never see her husband again. Despite, her relatively short stay would make a huge impression on the Japanese as she was represented on many Japanese art and souvenirs. For a study on Titia”s life see René Bersma, Titia, the First Western Woman in Japan (Leiden: Hotei, 2003).

[6] Charles R. Boxer, Jan Compagnie in Japan, 1600–1850: an essay on the cultural, artistic and scientific influence exercised by the Hollanders in Japan from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries (Springer, 2013) p. 93.


Artist: Haruna Shigeharu 春名繁春 (1847-1913)

Title: Fugaku shinkei 富嶽真景

Date of Publication: 1894, Publisher: Gunshojō, Shimomura Shotaro

Medium: Woodblock printed, ink and color on paper.

Dimensions: 18.5 x 25.1 x 0.8 cm (Pulverer)

Gift of: Tress, Arthur (donor) (Tress Collection copy)

Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 45, Item 21.

The Fugaku shinkei 富嶽真景 (True Pictures of Mt. Fuji) is created by the artist Haruna Shigeharu 春名繁春. Haruna Shigeharu was known as a painter of Kutani porcelain. The book is made with a fukurotoji binding but in a horizontal (yokobon) format with four hold binding. After the first four pages, additional folios have been supported a sheet of a thin paper inside the folded page, likely a later conservation intervention. In addition to the bizarre construction, page 5 does not have an image on the back, and this is consistent throughout the book for the remainder of the 32 images. The leaves after page 5 then transition to a butterfly binding.

The colophon reports the book is a single volume, complete (zen).

Artwork Analysis:

The thirty-two images show Mt. Fuji from a single perspective, and while Mt. Fuji is the subject for this book, the book does much more. The character of the mountain is not just defined by its iconic shape. Yet while the shape is important, so that the viewer understands where they are in Japan when observing the mountain, the book is a conversation between the mountain, the seasons and weather, and the observer. The view of Mt. Fuji as represented in the book is presented from the south, as though the observer is standing south of the mountain looking towards the north. Today, this view can be seen from the Shinkansen (bullet train) after the train departs from Mishima Station and towards . This view can be identified by the way that Mt. Fuji’s iconic second bump which can be observed from this angle.

The book was advertised in 1895 in The Japan Weekly Mail where it was described:

“Fugaku shinkyo, or Views of Fuji, is the title of a little album containing no less than 32 sketches of the summit of the peerless mountain, in all weathers and at all seasons. The exquisite symmetry and graceful shape of Fujiyama evoke a kind of reverential love in Japanese bosoins. Never, we believe, has any natural object received such tender worship or played such a large part in the art of a nation. Mr. Haruna Shigeharu, the painter of these 32 pictures, must have made the mountain a perpetual study. It is worthy of such attention, and the public will be grateful for this result of his labour of love.”

I realized that Fugaku shinkei appears to be simple in its physical presentation, but the more a reader spends time with the book the more details are exposed to the reader. It is much like when one sits with the view of the mountain in their visual field, no matter for a moment or an hour, the viewer will have a different experience along with a different perception of the space. For example, if a reader looks closely, there are detailed impressions of characters in the top left of the pages. But the book reveals more when it is observed with raking light. Details appear that contour the shapes in the landscape, this gives a deeper definition and texture to the space. The pages are more three dimensional than they initially appear. Though I can only speculate now about the artist’s intention, I believe the artist (and his collaborators, the carvers and printers) intended for this subtle detail to be discovered over time, much like how the subject, Mt. Fuji, changes over time in different weather and seasons, often in ways not noticeable or abrupt. This suggests to me that the book is observational by nature.

Haruna Shigeharu must have spent a considerable amount of time observing Mt. Fuji from the southern perspective to show such a variety of images of the same place. While the view is the same, it is always in flux, and while the mountain indexes as an icon in our consciousness, in reality, nature is what indexes our perception of the mountain in the moment. Thus, this is why a book with the “same” thirty-two images of Mt. Fuji can be so complex and polarizing.

Other Copies of the Book: 

Selected Readings: 

Posted by Derek Rodenbeck

April 15th, 2020


Calligrapher: Hasegawa Myōtei 長谷川妙貞 (Japanese, year unknown)

Illustration calligrapher: Nakamura Sankinshi 中村 三近子 (Japanese, 1671 – 1741),

Illustrator: Sōsekishi 漱石子 (Japanese, year unknown)

TitleNyohitsu kasugano shita (女筆嘉須賀濃 下)

Date: 1730 (享保15年)

Medium: Black and white woodblock printed book; ink on paper

Publisher: Kyoto – Uemura Tōjirō 植村藤治郎, Edo – Uemura Tōzaburō 植村藤三郎, Ōsaka – Uemura Tōzaburō 植村藤三郎

Gift of Arthur Tress. Box 27, Item 11:

Nyohitsu kasugano shita is the third volume of a three-volume set designed to show Edo-period women how to write elegant calligraphy in three different styles. It features examples by Hasegawa Myōtei, a highly regarded woman calligrapher, and belongs to the genre known as nyohitsu (女筆) or calligraphy primers for women. These texts often contained sample letters for use throughout the year and included motifs specific to the season as well as to popular festivals. This volume includes letters with seasonal motifs from winter to early spring, spanning from greetings on the Double Ninth Festival and the Lunar New Year to the first month of the year. It also contains sample letters to offer congratulations on the occasion called kamiogi, an auspicious ceremony when children have their first haircut, as well as to thank match-makers, along with others.

The Tress collection title includes one of the several names used by the woman calligrapher, Hasegawa Myōtei. She became famous for her elegant style. In this book, we can see Myōtei’s accomplished hand and admire her rendering of extreme ligatures between characters as delicate diagonal lines that rhythmically cut across the pages as well as her great flair in the leftward and upward motion of her script. The artist who composed the illustration on the second page of the book, Sōsekishi, may also have been a woman, but little can be determined about her life from extant sources.

The illustration by Sōsekishi on the interior of the front cover includes a text written by Nakamura Sankinshi that relays an anecdote about Fujiwara no Sukemasa, a well-known Heian period noble and calligrapher. While on his return to Kyoto from his post in Kyushu, Sukemasa encountered several days of storms. One night the god of Ōmishima island appeared in his dream, telling him that he sent the storm so that he could ask Sukemasa to stay and write the motto for the Ōyamazumi shrine. After granting the god’s request, Sukemasa was able to return to Kyoto safely. Sukemasa is shown here writing the calligraphy while on a boat floating in the river. This story was likely chosen to show the benefit of developing a fine hand to female readers.

The title for this volume, Nyohitsu kasugano shita, is taken from the exterior title and it may be the third part added to a two-volume book work Nyohitsu kasugano 女筆春日野. According to the database of women’s calligraphy manuals produced by the library of the Nara Educational University, this volume is particularly rare.

Selected Readings:

 Tomoko Sakomura, Nyohitsu shinan shū 女筆指南集 (see commentary tab):

女筆手本解題, 江戸中期 (see number 82):

奈良教育大学教育資料館所蔵, 女筆手本類解説:


きみか世 : 女筆. 下 / [長谷川妙貞] [書]:

Chiyomigusa 千代見草, Vol. 1, FSC-GR-780.453.1-3:

Yuqi Zhao, October 5, 2019



Author: Hashimoto Gyokuransai 橋本玉蘭斎 (Japanese, 1807-1879?)

Artist: Gountei Sadahide 五雲亭貞秀 (Japanese, 1807-1879?)

Date: 1862-1865

Medium: Black-white woodblock printed book; ink on paper

Description: 6 volumes; 24.5cm; fukurotoji (pouch binding)

Publisher: Unknown

Call Numbers: Arthur Tress Collection. Box 2, Item 19.
Arthur Tress Collection. Box 55, Item 15.
Arthur Tress Collection. Box 65, Item 10.

Gift of Arthur Tress.

This is an illustrated book consisting of 6 volumes, depicting the foreigners and their lifestyles in Yokohama, in its early years of the Yokohama Port opening.

In 1859, a year after an international trade treaty was signed between Japan and the United States, followed by other similar agreements with England, Netherland, France and Russia, a sleepy fishing village of Yokohama was selected to open its port for international trade and commerce. Japanese merchants from nearby regions flocked to the port to take advantage of this new business opportunity, exporting raw silk, tea, and copper. With foreigners from the United States and European countries pouring in, Yokohama became an international city overnight.

As the news of foreign lifestyles reached further inland, Japanese interest and curiosity towards foreigners grew. Seeing an opportunity in the people’s interest in the lives of the ‘others,’ business-minded publishers in Edo sent Ukiyo-e artists into Yokohama to make prints depicting the new and exciting lives of the foreigners. This type of journalistic prints that became popular beginning in 1860, eventually came to be known as “Yokohama-e” or “Yokohama Nishiki-e,” and it played an important role in informing Japanese as they prepared to take in the influences of the foreign culture.

Yokohama Kaikō Kenmonshi was published in 1862, during the peak of Yokohama-e’s popularity. There are only a few other examples of Yokohama-e published in book format, as the majority of it was done in color prints. In this book, the artist/author Sadahide illustrates not only foreign people and objects they brought in but captures scenes of lively interactions and behaviors of the foreigners. Although this book mostly consists of illustrations, there is a significant amount of journalistic writing by Sadahide. There is a depiction of the impromptu dance party amongst the foreigners, what children played with and how they behaved, and description of work performed by the servants and what they ate, to give a few examples. There is even a detailed account of a quarrel he encountered at a bar between the Japanese bartender and a foreign drunkard who demanded top-shelf liquor without having enough money for it. Sadahide, unlike many other Yokohama-e artists of the time, visited Yokohama often to observe and interact with people of various backgrounds to produce this work.


Each of the 6 volumes starts with a full page of the preface, which explains the topics covered in the specific volume. The preface is followed by 13-15 spreads of illustrations with brief descriptions, and each volume concludes with 10-12 pages of texts, describing what Sadahide has seen, overheard and encountered, along with his interpretations and opinions on the matter.

What is most notable and touching about this work is his appreciation and respect for people, no matter what countries they may be from. Sadahide captures all the uniqueness and differences he sees in foreigners and the things they do, but he also captures many similarities between himself (Japanese) and the foreigners throughout the text.

Yokohama Kaikō Kenmonshi became an instant bestseller, and there is no doubt that it had an impact in opening up Japanese minds toward foreign culture as they were getting ready to adopt western ideas in a transitional time. It will continue to be a valuable source not only for art historians or book historians, but also for scholars researching topics such as foreign influences on Japan, international trade and commerce, or history of slaves.

Utagawa Sadahide歌川貞秀, also known as Gountei Sadahide五雲亭貞秀, Hashimoto Gyokuransai橋本玉蘭斎, Gyokuransai Sadahide玉蘭斎貞秀 or Gyokuō玉扇, was born in 1807 (Bunka 4) in Fusa providence (modern-day Chiba) as Hashimoto Kenjiro橋本兼次郎. Sadahide studied under the master Utagawa Kunisada, and he is said to be the most successful pupil of Kunisada. Sadahide’s illustrations were first published in 1821 (Bunsei 4) when he was 14 years old, for a kokkeibon published by Takizawa Bakin’s apprentice.

Sadahide is most known for his Yokohama-e, and considered to be the pioneer of the genre, as the first known print published of Yokohama after its port opened was Sadahide’s Kanagawa Yokohama shin kaikō zu 神奈川横浜新開港図(Newly-opened Port of Yokohama, 1860).

Sadahide was also known for his panoramic landscape and cityscape paintings done in birds-eye-view. Sadahide traveled on foot for days to research the land before he went to work on his large-scale maps.

In 1866, Sadahide, along with 11 other Ukiyo-e artists exhibited their work at the Paris International Exposition and received Legion d’Honneur.

Sadahide continued to work until a few years before he died in 1878 or 1879, when he was 71 or 72 years old.

Other Impressions

The British Museum

Freer/Sackler – The Gerhard Pulverer Collection

Nagoya Hōsa Library

The Met Museum

Waseda University Library

Selected reading/bibliography

Kida Jun’ichirō. 紀田順一郎. “Yokohama Kaikō Jidai no Hitohibo.” 横浜開港時代の人々. Kanagawa Shinbun Sha, 2009.

Munakata Morihisa. 宗像盛久. “Yokohama Kaika Nishiki-e o Yomu.” 横浜開港錦絵を読む. Tōkyō-Dō Shuppan, 2000.

Takumi Hideo. 匠秀夫. “Yokohama Nishiki-e to Gountei Sadahide” 横浜錦絵と五雲亭貞秀. In Nihon no Kindai bijutsu to Bakumatsu. 日本の近代美術と幕末, p.95-184. Chūseki Sha, 1994.

Sugimoto Fumiko and Michael Burtscher. “Shifting Perspectives on the Shogunate’s Last Years: Gountei Sadahide’s Bird’s-Eye View Landscape Prints.” Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 72 no.1, 2017, p.1-30.


Posted by Eri Mizukane

March 25, 2020

HATTA KOSHŪ 八田古秀, KOSHŪ GAFU 古秀画譜, 1824

Artist: Hatta Koshū 八田古秀 (Japanese, 1770-1822)

Title: Koshū gafu 古秀画譜

Date: 1824 (Bunsei 7)

Medium: Woodblock print, 25.65 x 17.9cm

Publisher: Kyoto: Yoshida Shinbē

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books, Box 8, Item 16

Koshū gafu, which translates to “Koshū’s Album,” is a collection of thirty prints illustrated by Koshū Hatta, a painter who studied directly with Maruyama Ōkyo, now regarded as one of the founding figures of the Maruyama-Shijō style. Hatta’s illustrations exhibit the naturalism promoted in the style: the dynamism of people in motion or birds in flight; the fine strokes of an animal’s fur; the reserved but pointed deployment of colors in swatches to connote vast spaces like the sky and the ocean. In these ways Koshū gafu is filled a selection of intimate portrayals of humans, animals, and landscapes alike. Treating animals and landscapes with the same dignity as one would give to a person, Hatta regards his subjects with a tone of reverence. Some animals and plants are zoomed in and painted in larger proportions than our normal perception of them, while in several landscape illustrations we find a small, lone human figure, made to emphasize the vastness of the landscape in which they are depicted, intimating notions of the sublime. That a publisher was willing to give Hatta the space of a selected collection, or gafu, testifies to his appeal and prestige at the time, though Hatta’s artistic style certainly extends beyond the confines of a thirty-work collection. His hanging scroll illustration “Seiobo And Sennin,” a more formally representational work, is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

According to the British Museum, Koshū gafu was first published in 1812, and it was reissued in 1814 and 1824. This signals its great popularity among readers. Arthur Tress’s collection includes two copies of Koshū gafu from the 1824 reissue, in different stages of wear (see Box 8, item 8 for the other copy). Both copies have the original cover with repeating octagonal patterns, though the copy exhibited is at a generally better condition, preserving more of the original colors. The copy featured here also includes what appear to be stamps of small, red circles on every illustration, either at the lower left-hand or lower right-hand side, circles which do not appear in the other copy. The exact purpose of these red circles is unknown, though they are not an uncommon appearance in other Japanese illustrated books of the time.

Other copies of Koshū gafu can be found at the British Museum (1812 edition), the Boston Book Company (presumed 1812 edition), and the Pulverer Collection (1812 edition).

Selected Readings

Jack Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book (London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 1987).

Jack Hillier, The Uninhibited Brush: Japanese Art in the Shijō Style (Hugh M. Moss Ltd., 1974).

Posted by Kelly Liu, Autumn 2019




Artist: Kamisaka Sekka

Title: Chō senshu, “One Thousand Butterflies”

Date: 1904

Publisher: Unsōdo

Description: 1 of 2 volumes

Medium: Woodblock printed, multiple colors on paper

Format: hanshibon; gajōsō binding; printed on one side, accordion fold

Dimensions: 25 x 18.1 x 1.7 cm

Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Arthur Tress Collection. Box 63, Item 11  

Gift of Arthur Tress 

Chō senshu is a prime example of Kamisaka Sekka’s ability to explore a traditional theme through design. From representational to abstract, a series of printed butterflies are brought to life with Sekka’s experiments in shape, color, and composition.

Sekka was one of the last great masters of the Rinpa style of painting, who applied his artistry to the modern period’s burgeoning field of design. As a designer, educator, and leader in the arts community of Kyoto, he dedicated his life to elevating the decorative arts to the status of fine art.[1]

Sekka’s training as a painter and skill as a designer is evident in his woodblock printed books and varied crafts such as ceramics, lacquered boxes, wall panels, and textiles. He deftly integrated a modern sensibility with his commitment to the traditional ideals of the Rinpa style.

[1] Kanzaka Sekka, Yūko Ikeda, and Donald Alan Wood. Kanzaka Sekka : Rinpa No Keishō = Kamisaka Sekka : Rimpa Master. [Kyoto]: Kyōto Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 2003.

Other collections

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wilmington University Library
Princeton University Library
Yale University Library
Harvard University
East Carolina University, Health Science Library
Duke University Libraries
Cleveland Public Library
Berry College Memorial Library
Simpson University Library
The British Library, St. Pancras

Further reading

Kanzaka Sekka: Rinpa No Keishō = Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa Master. Kanzaka Sekka, Yūko Ikeda, and Donald Alan Wood. [Kyoto]: Kyōto Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 2003.

The Art of the Japanese Book. Hillier, J. and Langley Iddins. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.


Posted by Catherine Gontarek
November 21, 2019



Artist: Katsuma Ryūsui 勝間竜水 (1711-1796)

Title: Umi no sachi 海幸

Date: 1762

Medium: Woodblock printed, ink and color on paper

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books, Ryūsui 1

Umi no sachi, or Treasures of the Sea, is an extraordinary two-volume book of poetry matched with lavish color-printed illustrations of fish. Produced in large format on an unusual theme, this project was probably the private production of a poetry circle, rather than a commercial publication.(1) At its core, the work is a compilation of haikai poems. Yet its unusual theme, exceptional printing, and fascinating, deftly executed pictures defy such easy classification.

The first volume opens with a preface by the esteemed Baba Songi (1703–1782), a leading practitioner of haikai poetry in the mid-eighteenth century. Next come three further introductory texts: one by the book’s editor and fellow poet Sekijukan Shūkoku and two by artist Katsuma Ryūsui. Shūkoku’s preface outlines the allusion present in Umi no sachi’s title: the ancient tale of two brothers, Umi no Sachi Hiko (Prince Luck of the Sea) and Yama no Sachi Hiko (Prince Luck of the Mountain), found in the early chronicle the Kojiki (A Record of Ancient Matters, 712).(2) It was typical in the period for such prefaces to provide highly elevated or literary references, such as this classical text, no matter how mundane the content. In this case, it provides the justification for the aquatic theme to follow.

In the main text of the book, each page opening reveals new variety of fish, splendidly printed in color and accompanied by poems for each type. With more than one hundred species represented, the book presents a veritable catalogue of the bounty of the sea, rivers, and lakes. These aquatic creatures range from established delicacies like sea bream, tuna, octopus, eel, and various kinds of shrimp to more exotic subjects like the whale—so vast it is represented by the inky darkness of a page printed in reverse—and the semi-mythical minogame—a hairy-backed turtle and symbol of longevity. Every illustrated fish is also identified by name, sometimes with several Chinese variations, as if to imitate the conventions of natural history texts.

One of the things that makes Umi no sachi so significant in the history of Japanese print culture is that its abundant color printing predates the development of full-color nishiki-e in sheet prints by three years. Every illustration uses at least two printed colors in addition to black; most illustrations display up to five or even six colors. And though profuse and elaborate, the color printing in this book is often quite subtle. A fish might be depicted in three shades of grey, rather than boldly saturated with contrasting colors. Furthermore, each fish, mollusk, or crustacean is approached with a degree of naturalism by artist Ryūsui. Their sometimes startling morphological verisimilitude signals the growing interest in the period in honzōgaku, or natural studies.

Highly appreciated in the period, Umi no sachi was reprinted multiple times by successive publishers. The Tress copy of Umi no sachi comes from the first printing, published by Kameya Tahei in the second month of 1762. These early printings rank among the very finest examples of early multiple color woodblock printing in Japan, enhanced with special techniques like applications of mica which make the fish seem to shimmer on the page.

(1) Their poems and sobriquets appear throughout the book, and though most of these poets are unknown today, it has been speculated that some of the contributors may have been high-ranking samurai See Kira Sueo, “Tashokuzuri ebaisho ni tsuite,” 16.
(2) Both the Kojiki and Nihon shoki contain versions of this story. For an English translation of the story based on the Kojiki, see Ō and Heldt, The Kojiki, 53-60.

Other collections:
Pulverer Collection, Freer Gallery of Art

Posted by Jeannie Kenmotsu, April 6, 2022