Well-selected Collection



  • A Picture Book of Annual Events in the Yoshiwara
    Jippensha Ikku, text; Kitagawa Utamaro, illustrations

    The Yoshiwara, a brothel district officially licensed by the shogunate, was filled with establishments large and small. For men of the middle class and above, it was a social setting centered on oiran, highly cultured courtesans. It was also a place that developed its own culture, which influenced the world outside it as well. The Yoshiwara had its own rules, and any customer who did not know them was regarded as boorish.
    The book from which this image is taken explains the annual events carried out in the Yoshiwara, provides guidelines for customers, and introduces its conventions; it also depicts the punishments doled out to customers who violated them. One of the rules was that if a customer had been visiting a particular prostitute regularly, he was forbidden to go to another brothel without notice. His punishment upon discovery could include having his topknot cut off.
    Looking closely at this illustration, we see, at the bottom right, an oiran looking into the room. In the upper left is a man who had been her regular customer. He has been dressed in a gaudy womanfs kimono, and some scribbles are visible on his face. The prostitutes at the sides of the room are covering their mouths with their sleeves to conceal their laughter at this mocking treatment of him. Others have come to peep at this scene behind the shoji and fusuma sliding doors. As we can see, a customer who broke the Yoshiwara rules became the brothelfs laughingstock.
    This illustration is particularly interesting since materials depicting customers being punished are not common.@@@

    (No. 88200130)

  • Edo Restaurant Ranking

    This page is divided into east and west, on the right and left, and gives names by rank, using the terms for sumo wrestlersf rankings: ozeki, sekiwake, and on down. The format is the same as the printed flyers, familiar to any sumo fan, that present sumo wrestlersf rankings. Look closely, though, and you will see that it is not sumo wrestlers being ranked. Instead, we have, for example, gHirasei, Fukagawa Dobashih and gMomokawa, Ukiyo-shoji,h all exclusive restaurants.
    A culture of restaurants offering fine cuisine flowered in Edo in, it is thought, the Bunka and Bunsei eras (1804-1830), late in the Edo period. At the places regarded as top-notch, customers were first shown into gorgeous sitting rooms, where they would chat and relax until the staff informed them that the baths were ready. They would wash off the dayfs sweat, then go on to enjoy their meal.
    Regular customers included many heads of major stores as well as literati. For them, a fine restaurant was more than a place to dine: it also functioned as a salon, a place for cultural interchanges. Of course, a lavish evening there would be quite costly. At the Momokawa, for example, the least expensive meal cost 1,000 mon per person, exorbitant indeed when you consider that a bowl of soba noodles then cost about 16 mon.
    The restaurant names listed in the center of this sheet (under the sumo headings of umpires and promoters) are establishments that do not fit in the east and west rankings and are regarded as exceptional. Yaozen, whose name appears in large script at the very bottom, is one. A restaurant that, reflecting its role as a place where literati socialized, published its own cookbook, Yaozen was also a place where new developments in Edo culture emerged. @@
    (No. 98200399)

  • Hina Dolls on Steps
    Keisai Eisen

    Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival, celebrated on the third day of the third month, has become established as a seasonal event offering prayers for girlsf healthy growth. Now celebrated on March 3, its origins go back to the Heian period (794-1185), when paper figures representing sacred object of worship would be made and offerings presented to them at seasonal festivals, which were days to pray for protection from disease and disaster. In time, those paper figures evolved into small dolls, known as hina dolls, which, in the world of the aristocracy, became toys for girls.
    The custom of providing girls with hina dolls did not spread to ordinary families until the Edo period (1603-1868). The multi-level display for these dolls developed from the Genroku era (1688-1704) on, with three- to five-level displays usual among Edo townspeople. In the families of the shogun and daimyo, detailed miniatures were made of the full bridal trousseau and would decorate the entire drawing room for the Doll Festival.
    The print shown here depicts a set of hina dolls on a five-level display. In addition to the emperor and empress dolls at the top, their male attendants, and the five female musicians, this set includes some elements not common among todayfs hina dolls: the deity Ebisu holding the sea bream with which he is associated and children dressed like monkey trainers, with a monkey mask and bells in their hands, perhaps replacing the usual three ladies in waiting, and, at the bottom, two papier-mache dog-shaped boxes (otogi inu).
    Otogi inu had become part of the bridal trousseau among the aristocracy in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The papier-mache box would decorate the birthing room to symbolize prayers for a safe delivery. In the Edo period, commoners also adopted these prayer objects for a safe delivery and the health of the child, and the little dogs later became playthings. We can understand why they would be displayed at the Doll Festival, which celebrates girlsf healthy growth.
    Perhaps in some families, prints like this example replaced the hina doll display.
    (No. 90200060)

  • Lacquer Basins with Handles, with Scattered Hagiku Crests in Maki-e on Cloudlike Clusters of Pearskin Ground (Muranashiji)

    The large and small basins have a lacquer ground covered with gold powder in a dappled pattern, over which hagiku (leaf and chrysanthemum) crests in heavily raised maki-e have been scattered. They were containers used in blackening her teeth by Princess Kazunomiya, wife of Iemochi, the fourteenth Tokugawa shogun.
    Today, tooth blackening is no longer practiced, but from the Heian period on, dyeing the teeth black was a common cosmetic practice. These basins with handles were used to dissolve iron filings to make the dye.
    In the closing years of the Edo period, the shogunate was losing power. Some went so far as to challenge its authority and call for a return to rule by the Emperor. The marriage arranged between the shogun, Iemochi, and Princes Kazunomiya, daughter of Emperor Ninko, was a political move intended to build a harmonious relationship between the shogunate and the imperial court and sooth the antagonism between their respective supporters. The wedding ceremony was celebrated in Edo in 1862.
    For the wedding, the trousseau, a great variety of furnishings and implements, all decorated with the same motif, was produced. On the Edo side, which was welcoming the princess, a trousseau was prepared with all the pieces decorated with both Princess Kazunomiyafs hagiku crest and the Tokugawa aoi or hollyhock crest. These basins, however, have only the hagiku crest scattered over them; there is no sign of the hollyhock crest. These were thus probably not part of the trousseau that the shogunate provided. Might the princess have brought with her basins made for her in Kyoto, before the wedding?
    Actually, other items from the Princess Kazunomiya-Tokugawa Iemochi marriage that also have only hagiku crests also exist. It is thought that both the Kyoto and Edo sides prepared enormous trousseaus, through which the imperial family and shogunal family each asserted their authority.
    (No. 88290070,07200136)

  • Learn the Roman Alphabet Quickly

    These pages are from a set of books, published in 1872, that include information on how to pronounce and spell English words and taught simple vocabulary and grammar. They are equivalent to todayfs gIntroduction to Englishh textbooks.
    Here we see the title page on the left and, on the right, the first page of the text. It begins by presenting the Roman alphabet, with each letterfs pronunciation. Those pronunciations, rendered in the Japanese katakana syllabary, correspond to how the letters are pronounced in English: gAe, bee, see.h To people who had learned to read ABC as gAh, be, se,h as they are pronounced in Dutch, the appearance of these volumes announced the arrival of a new age. No longer was Dutch the main language through which information from the Western world reached Japan. English was replacing it as the paramount foreign language.
    With the Meiji governmentfs implementation of policies to Westernize and modernize, a powerful wave of bunmei kaika (civilization and enlightenment, i.e., modernization) surged over Japan. Riding that wave, people founded English schools and published English language textbooks.
    It was at that time that Fukuzawa Yukichi, an influential author, educator, and publisher, wrote his An Encouragement of Learning, in which he stressed the use of translations of books from Europe and America to acquire practical learning. He also preached that young people with literary inclinations should learn to read those books in their original language, not in translation.
    Early private schools offering instruction in English included Fukuzawa Yukichifs own Keio Gijuku, Mitsukuri Shuheifs Sansa Gakusha, Naruto Yoshitamifs Eigakusho, Kondo Makotofs Kogyokujuku, and Seki Shinpachifs Kyoritsu Gakusha. The number of such schools increased steadily, reaching a peak in 1872. Thereafter the founding of new schools slowed, and the passion for studying English gradually calmed down. The flourishing of English studies at that time, however, meant that a great number of Western books on thought and culture were being imported and translated. The knowledge thus acquired had a major influence on building the Meiji state.
    (No. 90210170)

  • Famous Views of Tokyo: Brick Building in Owari-cho
    Utagawa Hiroshige III

    After a huge fire in Tokyo 1872, Ginza was reconstructed as a modern, Westernized area with Chuo Avenue at its center. The governmentfs goal was a fire-resistant district, for which it carried out a major city planning effort and built streets of brick buildings designed by the British architect Thomas Waters.
    This polychrome print depicts the Ebisuya, which was located on Chuo Avenue at what is now Ginza 5-chome. The Ebisuya was a long-established dry-goods store and exchange banking company that rivaled Mitsui Echigoya in scale. After the district was rebuilt with Western-style brick buildings, the Ebisuya occupied the same location as it had before. Most of the new buildings on the Ginza were shared by several shops, each occupying a unit two or three ken (about 3.6 or 5.4 meters) wide on the street side. The Ebisuya, however, had its own building, the grandest of the brick buildings on the Ginza: 16 ken (nearly 29 meters) wide and 10 ken (18 meters) deep. A magnificent sight, it became a new famous place in Tokyo and a subject in polychrome prints such as this one.
    Here we see rickshaw and other traffic on the street and, beyond it, the interior of the store. Customers would enter the store, sit in the Japanese-style reception room, and talk business with the Ebisuya staff. While the exterior was made of brick, a sign of the new age, take one step inside and you would find yourself in a setting, and receiving a style of service, no different from that of the Edo period.
    A year after this print was published, however, changes in the governmentfs financial policies led to the Ebisuyafs going bankrupt. A newspaper company, the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun (Tokyo Daily News) moved into the former Ebisuya building. From then on, the Ginza became lined with newspaper and magazine publishing companies and a major hub for journalism.@@@@@@
    (No. 99002383)

  • Chart of Terms for Teaching Children

    This print presents a classroom scene in an early Meiji period elementary school. At first glance, the old-fashioned clothing and other details make it seem very different from a classroom today. But the teacher using a wall chart to instruct the children is acting the way teachers do now.
    That wall chart is, in fact, a full-fledged kyokasho, a textbook. Why would a chart be called a textbook? That question takes us back to the Edo period.
    Institutions known as terakoya, schools for the common people, had become widespread in the Edo period. A great variety of books, copybooks, and other materials served as textbooks, depending on what was available in each area. The materials used in any given school also varied from child to child, because instruction was individualized, based on meeting the level and needs of each child.
    After the Meiji Restoration, with waves of modernization reaching the world of education, it was thought that teachers needed to inculcate in students the content that the nation-state regarded as essential. To achieve consistent results, it was thought to be more efficient for one teacher to teach several students at once, instead of instructing each individually, and thus uniform classroom education began. Uniform classroom education could not work, however, unless all students had textbooks with the same content, and the early Meiji government lacked the resources to distribute such textbooks to all the children in the country. The solution was educational materials that hung on classroom walls, wall charts, to perform that function.
    If we look at the flow of textbooks from the Edo to the modern periods, we see a process by which the variety of teaching materials used in the Edo period was followed by wall charts and then, finally, in 1903, the content converged in official, standardized textbooks. Wall charts such as the one shown here could thus be regarded as an interim form of textbook during the transition period in the modernization of Japanfs educational system.@@@
    (No. 89975285)

  • Incendiary Bomb Shell

    Before dawn on March 10, 1945, American B-29 bombers carried out a major air raid on the Shitamachi area of Tokyo, a working-class district of residences and small factories that included Honjo, Fukagawa, and Asakusa. The resulting fires devastated that part of the city, leaving about 100,000 dead.
    According to the operational mission report that the US military prepared about each bombing, the 279 B-29s that took part in the March 10 bombing dropped 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs. Almost all were M-69 napalm incendiary bombs, as shown in this photograph: hexagonal shells about 7.5 centimeters wide and 50 centimeters long. The iron shellsf incendiary filling was jellied gasoline, i.e., napalm. When a bomb struck, the fuse in its tip would ignite a small phosphorus charge, which in turn ignited the incendiary filling. When the filling started to burn, flames would jet out the shellfs rear end, causing the shell to fly about 30 meters, scattering napalm as it did so. These incendiary bombs proved the most effective weapon against Japanese houses and other buildings, which were usually built of wood and paper.
    The majority of bombs dropped during the March 10 air raid were incendiary bombs of this type. According to some calculations, that raidfs bomb tonnage is equivalent to 360,000 incendiary bombs. People in Tokyo had participated in air raid training, learning to use bucket brigades and traditional beaters to put out fires, but those techniques proved woefully inadequate in the face of this unimaginably overwhelming fire-bombing raid.
    (No. 88000435)

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