Picture Categories

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awate-e (hysteria-pictures)

In the 8th month of 1862 one Englishman was killed and two others wounded by Japanese in the village of Namamugi. The incident of Namamugi became politically important and the English claimed a huge sum of compensation. To show their military power English war ships sailed into the bay of Edo. As the inhabitants of Edo flew in panic the different scenes of that stampede was shown in the awate-e.

bijin-ga (beauty-pictures)

At the 4th day of the 6th month of 1842 the government passed a law against the representation of beauties (mostly courtesans from the pleasure quarters). To avoid the law beauties where presented in a humoristic way accompanied by poems and explanations on the particular situation.

Boshin sensō-e (Boshin War-pictures)

From 1868 to 1869 the Boshin-war was fought between the adherents of the Emperor (shinseifu-gun: Satsuma-han und Chōshū-han etc.) and the Tokugawa Shogunat (sabaku-gun: bakufu, Aizu-han, Kuwana-han etc.). (As the year 1868 is named gboshinh after the Japanese calendar, the war was named after the year´s name). The defeat of the Shōgunat-party lead directly to the Meiji-restauration.
Regarding the Boshin-war, the so called kodomo no asobi-e (gchildplay-picturesh) and otona no tawamure-e (ggrownup-play-picturesh) have been produced. Thereby two groups of children or adults are playing a game, representing the opponents of the war. By means of the patterns and crests on the figurefs robes, one can identify the players as the governmentfs (Tokugawa-shogunate) or Emperorfs group. Depending on the historical development the situation of winner and looser in the course of the game is changing too.
Among all categories of caricature pictures Boshin-war pictures has been produced to the highest number and stand on the pike of the boom. Nowadays about 300 different picture motives are preserved.

bunmei kaika-e (modernisation-pictures)

After the Meiji-Restauration of 1868 western culture, science and techniques were introduced to Japan as fast as possible. The change to the western culture and ideology was not conducted as a total concept, but parts of the western lifestyle were blended with the Japanese one. Bunmei kaika-e were making fun about the sometimes grotesque results. One typical example is the combination of Western and Japanese fashion elements as Western skirts worn with Japanese shoes or Japanese Kimonos worn with Western hats and accessories etc.

fūshiga (caricatures)

In this category of pictures politicians, famous persons but also moral concepts, fashion trends etc. are presented in an ironical way. As different kind of topics, but especially political ones, were forbidden by the bakufu-government in the Edo-period, the desired content had to be presented indirectly.

giga (humor-pictures)

hanji-e (rebus-pictures)

These pictures are a play on words, forming a riddle that the viewer has to dissolve. Example: to represent a rake (kumade), a bear (kuma) and a hand (te) are shown – together forming the word "kumade". The pictures and the emerged word usually have nothing in common but the pronunciation. Topics of this kind of riddles were typical products from the Japanese provinces, but above all, famous poets, heroes of the past and famous actors of that time.

hashika-e (measles-pictures)

From the 4th to the 7th month of 1862 one of Japans largest measles epidemic spread in Edo. Funny pictures emerged as charms against the disease. General information on measles where given but also therapeutic measures against the disease presented. Nowadays about 100 different picture motives are preserved.

hayarigami-e (fashion-gods-pictures)

From spring to summer of 1849 there was a temporary boom of three fashion-gods. Okina Inari Daimyōjin was worshipped in Nihonbashi, Datsueba in Naitō Shinjuku Shōjuin and Otake Dainichi-nyorai in Ryōgoku Ekōin. Until today there are still about 50 different picture-themes about these three fashion-gods preserved.

ken no e (ken-pictures)

Ken is a game for one or two persons, played with the hands. Different versions of ken-plays existed; one of it was very alike the "paper, fist and scissors" we are still playing nowadays. One is winning but one is also always loosing – so there are no real winners in that game. Ken was introduced in the Edo-period from China and was initially played at carousals in the pleasure quarters. Later on, it got popular within a wider range of society too. In 1847 the totetsuru-ken (kabuki-dance with a ken-constellation) was first performed at the Kawarazaki-theatre in Edo whereupon the totetsuru-ken-pictures became resoundingly successful. Afterwards there have been some other successful performances of kabuki-ken-dances (kitsune-ken, sangoku-ken, asakusa-ken etc.) with the belonging ken-play-pictures following.

namazu-e (earthquake-pictures)

On the 2nd day of the 10th month of 1855 there had been a big earthquake in Edo. Immediately after the calamity large quantities of pictures with catfish-motives emerged. The boom was stopped soon after by the prohibition of the government on the 14th day of the 12th month of the same year. Although there have not been more than two and a half month of time about 400 different catfish-pictures have been produced (source: Nai no hinami). Until today about 200 different motives have been preserved.
As a Japanese legend tells, an enormous catfish lays deep down in the earth. Normally he is caught by some huge rocks (kaname-ishi) by the Shinto-divinity Kashima Daimyōjin so he could not cause any harm by moving his body. But in the 10th month Kashima Daimyōjin usually travels to Izumo to assemble with all the other Shinto-divinities. That is why the 10th month is also called the kannatsuki (godless month). Because of the absence of the guard the catfish could break free and move as violently under the earth as to evoke the big earthquake.
You will neither find any signature of the artist nor a censorship stamp on this kind of pictures as the production had to be very fast because of the up-to-dateness but also anonymous because of the ban on the depiction of current events. As the infrastructure of the censorship mechanism was destroyed too, the producers had a little advantage. There have been two different types of content: the early pictures, produced immediately after the earthquake, presented the catfish as something negative, producing destruction and agony. On later pictures the catfish was shown by his positive site, causing economic revival by the reconstruction of the city.

Nisshin- Nichirosensō-e (Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese War-pictures)

Caricatures about the two wars of the Meiji-period, the Sino-Japanese War (Nisshin sensō, 1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (Nichiro sensō, 1904-05) have been produced. Among them there have been two series called Nippon banzai and Hyakusen hyakushō. The last title could be read as g100 wars, 100 victoriesh, but could also be translated with g100 times chosen, 100 times laughed ath. The last series of all woodprints which was produced on a grand scale was about the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

Seinan sensō-e (Seinan War-pictures)

In 1877 the leader of the Kagoshima-partisans, Saigō Takamori, put up an army against the politic of the new Meiji-government, as the abolition of the samurai-class. The Seinan sensō (Southwestern war or Satsuma rebellion) became a topic for many caricatures.

shini-e (memorial-pictures)

Memorial-pictures became popular in the second half of the Edo-period (1603-1868) as reminiscence of deceased (mostly famous actors etc.). A portrait of their life was drawn; their stage and posthumous name, cause and date of death, their deathbed poem etc. were enclosed. As memorial-pictures were forbidden, no sign of the actor or censorship stamp is enclosed. To cheer up the bereaved, the content was presented in a humorous way.
The most famous theme of memorial-pictures with 100-300 different motives was produced on the occasion of the death of the kabuki-actor Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII. Then superstar of the kabuki-world has killed himself in 1854 with 32 years of age in Ōsaka. As the circumstances of his death remained mysterious, all kind of conspiracy theories appeared in the pictures too.

shōgun jōraku-e (Shogunfs procession-pictures)

1863-64 the series shōgun jōraku-e about the proceeding of the shogun to the emperor in Kyōto emerged. Each of the g53 stations of the Tōkaidōh from Edo to Kyōto and the receiving at the emperorfs castle were displayed. Because this type of presentations where forbidden, the Tokugawa shogun was replaced by Minamoto Yoritomo on the pictures.

uke-e (fortune-pictures)

The teaching of yin and yang says that seven good years are alternating with five bad years. That is why one will always give a uke-e, showing seven things which are starting with the first sound from the word gfukuh (gfortuneh), as a present. Example: " fude" (gbrushh), "Fuji-san" (gMount Fujih) etc. That is how one tries to tie the fortune down to oneself. The costume to give away uke-e for good fortune emerged in the end of the Edo-period.

usagi-e (rabbit-pictures)

In 1874 the government enforced the breeding of bunnies. Thereupon a lot of caricatures about this topic emerged.

yakusha-e (actor-pictures)

Pictures of famous kabuki-actors. At the 4th day of the 6th month of 1842 the government passed a law against the representation of actors, but also of the stage design etc. of the kabuki-theatre. Kuniyoshi and his students avoided the law by using animal protagonists – each representing one particular famous kabuki-actor.

Yokohama-e (Yokohama-pictures)

In 1858 a trade agreement with US-America was concluded, soon followed by similar agreements with Russia, England, France and the Netherlands. In the course of these agreements, the harbours of Nagasaki, Hakodate and Yokohama were opened to foreign ships. Yokohama became an important harbour for foreign trade and a lot of foreigners became residents of this city. The Yokohama-pictures dealt with Westerners themselves, their lifestyle, matters and objects concerning Westerners. They gained great popularity.

yose-e (assembled pictures)

The elements of the picture are a composition of different small objects, not necessarily linked to the whole content. Example: the pictures of human bodies are organised in a way that they are forming the picture of a human face.