JAPANESE PRINTS

A MILLION QUESTIONS

TWO MILLION MYSTERIES

 

Ukiyo-e Prints

浮世絵版画

Port Townsend, Washington

 

 

 

UTAGAWA TOYOKUNI III

 

 

三代目歌川豊国

 

 

さんだい(目).うたがわ.とよくに.

 

 

1786-1865

 

PLAY:

Date Kurabe Okuni Kabuki

伊達競阿国歌舞妓

だてくらべおくにかぶき

 

ACTORS:

 RIGHT PANEL:

Bandō Hikasaburō V as Ashikaga Yorikane

 五世阪東彦三郎---足利頼兼

 ばんどひこさぶろう---あしかが.よりかね

LEFT PANEL:

Iwai Kumesaburō III as Takao

三世岩井粂三郎 (a correction)

--- 三浦屋高尾

いわい.くめさぶろう---たかお

 

 

PUBLISHER: Ito-ya Shōbei

糸屋庄兵衛

いとやしょうべい

 

 

DATE: 1861, 4th Month

Bunkyū 1

文久1

 

 

CARVER: Hori Chō

 

 

SIZE: 14 1/4" x 10" Each Panel

 

 

SIGNATURE: Toyokuni ga

豊国画

 

There is another copy of this diptych

in the collection of the

Tokyo Metropolitan Library.

 

CONDITION:

 

 

ORIGINALLY $540.00

NOW $380.00

SOLD!

 

 

 

SO...WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SPARROWS?

 

We knew that generally whenever there is an image of Ashikaga Yorikane he is accompanied by a bamboo and sparrow motif. However, when we purchased this diptych and after we received it we couldn't find the sparrows. The bamboo was obvious.

But where were those darned sparrows?

It wasn't until we were adding more information to this page that the oh-so-subtle pattern became clear. The flying birds are the dominating motif of the rose and pink robe Yorikane is wearing underneath the robe with the bamboo design.

 

Click on the detail shown above from a print by Hirosada to go to that page and further comments on that motif.

 

 

 

DATE SEAL:

1861, 4th Month

 

PUBLISHER:

Ito-ya Shōbei

 

 

 

 

CARVER:

Hori Chō

 

ARTIST'S SIGNATURE:

Toyokuni ga

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a slight water stain in the lower left

of the left-hand panel. We have highlighted it

in yellow to help you find it.

 

Binding holes as seen from the back.

They appear on the far left of the right-hand

panel of this diptych.

 

 

 

THE IRONY OF IT ALL

OR

THE USE OF LONGEVITY MOTIFS

RIGHT BEFORE HE KILLS HER

 
 

The long-tailed turtle or minogame (蓑亀 or みのがめ) and crane are both traditional symbols of longevity.

The character for 'mino' is 蓑. By itself it means 'straw raincoat'.  Physically this looks like the algae growing on back of some aged turtles. The algae is then confounded with the concept of a tail.

 
 
 
Above is a detail of a print by Toyokuni I.   Above is a detail of a print by Kuniyoshi.
 
Above is a detail of a print by Hokusai.

 

URASHIMA TARŌ

 AND THE TURTLE

Above is a detail from a print by Yoshitoshi.

 

The story of Urashima (浦島太郎 or うらしまたろう) has many elements in common with Western folklore. Just think of some kind of combination of Rip Van Winkle (リップ.バン.ウィンクル) and Pandora (パンドラ) and you will have the idea.

 

One day the young boy Urashima saves a turtle from being tormented by local children. A few days later while fishing Urashima is visited by the same turtle which thanks him for his kindness and as a reward offers to take him on a ride on his back to an underwater paradise, Ryugu (竜宮or りゅうぐう) - the palace of Dragon King. The boy hops on and is transported there. His stay in Ryugu is very pleasant, but after a short while he becomes homesick and wants to see his parents again. The queen of this paradise agrees to let him go and gives him a box to take back with him, but tells him he must not open it. Upon his return Urashima finds that everything has changed and is unfamiliar. Unable to find his parents or anyone who remembers him or them he walks back to the shore and sits down despondent. As you would expect he now opens the box and white smoke pours out. Instantly Urashima is transformed in an old man in tattered clothes who is now hundreds of years old. What had seemed like only days in paradise was actually a tad bit longer.

 

The versions of the story which I have read --- and there are several --- do not state flat out that the turtle had a "long tail". However, clearly that is how Yoshitoshi above chose to illustrate it and perhaps even Kuniyoshi below, but that one is arguable.

 

Above is a detail from a print by Kuniyoshi showing Urashima riding on the back of a tanuki

disguised as a turtle. The tanuki is using his scrotum for the turtles shell. To see

many other examples of tanuki scrotal art click on the image above.

 

FOUR VARIATIONS

ON THE MINOGAME MON

     
     
     
     
       

 

   
  Above is a detail of a print by Toyokuni III which shows minogame decorating the yellow robe of the figure. A.K. sent us a scan of this image from a print he owns. Thanks A.K.!  

 

 

 

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