A GUIDE TO JAPANESE PRINTS - BASIL STEWART
MISCELLANEOUS LANDSCAPE SERIES (OBLONG) BY HIROSHIGE
In this chapter we will describe various miscellaneous oblong series of views by Hiroshige, dealing with Yedo, Kyoto, and other districts of Japan ; his different "Hak'kei," or "Eight Views," and "Six Tama Rivers" are dealt with elsewhere under their particular titles in company with series by other artists illustrating the same subject.
Under the title of "Yedo Views," Hiroshige issued a large number of series with different publishers. Mr. Happer states that nearly fifty different series of indefinite number, in various sizes and shapes, are known, thus giving some idea of the popularity of this subject.
The earliest known series (very uncommon) is a set complete, according to Mr. Happer, in ten views, each full size, oblong, issued by the publisher KAWA-SHO, and may be recognized by the narrow decorative border (omitted in late editions) in varied patterns with round corners, each signed in full Ichi-yusai Hiroshige. It is also characterized by the red clouds in the sky. The title and sub-title are written on the print itself, inside the margin ; outside is the name and address of the publisher, Kawaguchi Shozo (usually in other series shortened to Kawa Sho-vide Appendix).
The different plates in this series are :-
1. Evening Cherries at Goten-yama.
2 . Evening Moon at Ryogoku Bridge, a view looking through and under the bridge, past one of the wooden piles, behind which appears the moon partly hidden by cloud.
3. Masaka, end of Spring.
4. First Cuckoo of the year, Tsukudashima, a crescent moon over the island, across which flies the cuckoo.
5. The Sumida River at the time of "leaf-cherry," that is, early summer ; a river view with two sailing barges and a raft on it.
6. Cherry-blossom in the early morning at Yoshiwara.
7. Ebb Tide at Shiba-ura, and people in the distance gathering shell fish.
8. Susaki, New Year Sunrise. A very fine snow scene, considered the masterpiece of the set. On the horizon the deep red orb of the sun is just emerging above the ocean ; in the foreground, close to the water's edge, a cluster of houses, and a shore line, edged with trees which are bent with the weight of snow, trails off towards the horizon.
9. Full Moon at Takanawa. View of the sweep of the shore of Yedo Bay, and wild geese flying across the face of the moon.
10. The Lotus Pond, Shinobazu, Uyeno Park. View of the pond and, on the left, a torii at the end of the causeway, in centre of which is a small "drum" bridge, leading to the shrine.
The series of most uniform excellence is probably that entitled "Toto Meisho," "Celebrated (Views of) Toto " (Toto or Yeto being alternative names for Yedo), the next earliest issue to the above, published by SANOKI, whose mark of KIKA-KUDO is stamped on the margin in red with the kiwame ("perfect") seal above it. The title is in a yellow, oblong label outside the margin, and projects somewhat above the top border. A view from this series of the Yoshiwara at night, under a full moon, is given at Plate 20.
Owing to an error, the margin showing the position of the labels has not been reproduced, but both the SANOKI and KIKA-KUDO seals are reproduced in the Appendix.
Another series, also issued by Sanoki, may be distinguished from the foregoing by having the title, which is also in a frame on the margin of the print, placed a trifle lower down, while the shape of the frame is slightly different. The publisher's stamp in the margin is that of SANOKI, in red, instead of Kika-kudo, and the border is shaped slightly differently at the corners. Hiroshige's signature, too, is written in his middle period form ; in the previous Sanoki issue it is in an earlier script.
One of the best views in this series (reproduced at Plate 22 in the Happer catalogue) is that of the yearly festival at Asakusa Temple, showing the crowds of people thronging up the temple steps under their umbrellas, during a heavy snow-storm. Except for slight touches of yellow and green, this is a print in one colour only, effect being produced by the contrast between the brilliant red of the temple and the snow.
Yet a third series by Sanoki is one with the title "Yeto (instead of "Toto ") Meisho." The date of this series is, perhaps, intermediate between the last two. The title is in a frame similar in shape and position to the previous series, to which Asakusa Temple under snow belongs, but the publisher's seal is that of KIKA-KUDO (in red), and is placed higher up in the margin.
The view of the Yoshiwara under snow, in early morning, reproduced at Plate 20, is an example from a Toto Meisho series issued about 1846, during the Prohibition period, as it carries two inspectors' seals, those of Watanabe and Kinugasa, alongside Hiroshige's signature. The title is on a yellow label, outside the right-hand margin as in the previous series, but the publisher's mark is that of SANOKI printed in black (instead of stamped) at the foot.
Before proceeding to other Yedo Meisho series in which the titles are on the face of the print itself, we will indicate certain views which occur in one or other of the foregoing sets, and which are particularly notable.
White Rain on Nihon Bridge. In the foreground is a view of part of the bridge, with people hurrying across, and "white rain" (a sudden shower lit up by sunlight) falling against a pale sky, while on the horizon looms up a grey Fuji (printed from colour-block only). Red seal of Kika-kudo in margin.
Snow at Shiba Akabane. View looking straight down a deep-cut canal to a small bridge, beyond which rises a red pagoda, half-hidden in the snow-covered woods. On the right of the canal runs a broad road, along which pass a few wayfarers, and on the further side is the long wall of a daimyo's palace or barracks, above which rises a high wooden tower through trees. A very fine snow scene. Sanoki seal in red.
Falling Snow in the Gardens of Kameido Temple. Another famous snow scene. A series of small bridges, joining islets across a lake, lead up to the temple entrance on the right. Round the edge of the lake are deserted booths and shelters ; red seal of Kika-kudo.
Twilight at Takanawa. Three large junks with immense square sails are coming to anchor off the wharf crowded with carts and travellers ; behind their masts blue clouds in a sunset sky and birds flying to rest. Kika-kudo seal. (See Plate 20, Illustration 3.)
Atago Hill, Shiba. View from the hill looking out over the roofs of the city towards the bay ; on the left, partly hidden by a tree, a rainbow arches across the sky. Only two other rainbow scenes are known to the writer, one a view in the "Hundred Views of Yedo" series (upright), and the other in the "Sixty Odd Provinces."
At Illustration 4, Plate 20, is an excellent snow scene showing the Benkei Canal in winter-time, in the Sakurada district of Yedo, from a series of YEDO MEISHO published by Arita-ya, whose seal is in the bottom corner. Alongside Hiroshige's signature is the aratame seal ("examined"), and below that a date-seal which reads Tiger uru 7, that is, intercalary 7th month, Tiger year= 1854.
Through the publisher Yamada-ya Hiroshige issued a set of Yedo Views known as the Yamada-ya figure set, so called from the prominence of the figures introduced into the composition.
The set is supposed to be complete in forty plates, which were issued between the years 1853 and 1858, though there are none for the year 1855 and only one for 1856. Those dated after the last year of the Prohibition period (i.e. 1854) do not carry inspectors' seals, but are marked with the aratame ("examined") seal instead.
This set may be identified by having the series title on a narrow vertical label, and the sub-title on a square one projecting from it, in the top right-hand corner, very similar to the two labels on the well-known upright set, "Hundred Famous Views in Yedo."
The views comprising this set vary in quality, and owing to the late date at which some were issued the colouring is at times crude and harsh. The best plate is that of the Tea-water Canal, Yedo, in a heavy snowstorm, the deep blue water of the canal flowing between high banks, crowned on one side with trees, all under a thick mantle of snow, falling from a black sky, making a picture of wonderful contrasts. Two women under umbrellas mount the road overlooking the canal, followed by a man.
Another plate rather better than most is that entitled Nihon-bashi, Yedobashi, showing two women and a girl crossing Nihon Bridge, followed by two fishmongers, the girl pointing to Yedo Bridge in the distance. Mists lie over the distant roofs and on the horizon Fuji rises above its foothills. Dated Ox 11 (11th month, 1853).
Other good plates are : Akabane Sui Tengu, "Water Birds at Akabane," a facetious reference to two women crossing a bridge over a canal in a heavy downpour of rain from a dark sky ; in the background is seen a long row of barracks and a watch-tower above them. The date-seal (Hare 3 = 1855) is printed over the water of the canal. No censors' seals.
Matsuchi-yama, Saruwaka cho. Three girls standing under some trees by a railed-in walk overlooking Young Monkey Street (i.e. Theatre Street) ; in the distance appears the pagoda of Kinryusan Temple. Dated Ox 11 = 1853.
The foregoing series is interesting from the fact that at this date Hiroshige had practically abandoned the oblong form of print for the vertical ; in this set, however, he reverts to his former shape.
The above constitute some of the principal "Yedo Meisho" series in oblong shape, prints of which the collector is most likely to come across. As already stated, about fifty different series, in various shapes and sizes, issued by various publishers, are known, but as many are now represented by only an occasional print, little purpose would be served by giving up space to them.
Under the title Koto Shokei, "Particular Views of Yedo," Hiroshige issued a set of eight, full-size, oblong views, through the publisher Kawasho. This series is very uncommon. Title in white on a red label.
With the title Yedo Komyo Kaiseki Tsukushi, "Famous Resorts (i.e. Tea-houses) of Yedo," Hiroshige issued through the publisher Fuji-Hiko, about the year 1840, a series of which twenty-nine plates are known, showing the principal tea-houses in and around Yedo. Like the Yamada-ya "Toto Meisho" series, they vary in merit considerably, some being much better than others. The colours at times are somewhat crude, and certain views are put out of balance by the too prominent figures in the foreground, which distract the attention from the subject of the picture and tend to blot it out.
The view from this series here illustrated at Plate 21, showing the Teahouse by the Imado Bridge, does not exhibit these defects, the colours being well-blended, and the figures in the boat well-proportioned to the rest of the design. This series is very uncommon. The publisher's mark is often introduced into the picture itself ; in the example here illustrated it will be found on the awning of the boat just over the head of the woman with the samisen, with the kiwame seal above it.
Of "Yedo Views" (oblong) by Hiroshige II we have already mentioned in an earlier chapter his set printed in blue, issued through the publisher Senichi, and dated 1862. A view from this set is illustrated at Plate 7, page 68.
At the same plate we reproduce an excellent snow scene from an earlier set over the signature Shigenobu, and dated Horse 10 (10th month, 1858), one month after the death of Hiroshige ; publisher Yamaguchi-ya (Tobei). Another plate from the same series is illustrated at Plate XXVIII in the Happer catalogue.
Yet a third series is one with the title "Yedo Meisho" on a narrow vertical label and signed Hiroshige II ; and dated Sheep 2 (2nd month, 1859) ; publisher Fuji-Hiko. In this case the date is incorporated with the aratame seal in one round seal, 1859 being the first year in which such incorporation is found.
In the Happer catalogue a view from this set is illustrated at Plate XXIX, signed in full, Shigenobu changing to the second Hiroshige, and with the note "the only print thus signed that could be found, although hundreds of prints were examined."
KYOTO MEISHO, "Famous
Views in Kyoto." A set of ten full-size, oblong prints, early
work ; publisher Kawaguchi ; very rare. This
series, which contains many masterpieces, may be recognized by having
a narrow double-line frame round each view. (See Plate 21, Illustrations
1 and 2.)
The title, Kyoto Meisho no uchi, and sub-title are on the face of each print ; publisher's seal of Yeisendo or Kawaguchi on the different plates.
The following are the plates comprised in this series :
1. The gold-plated Kinkakuji Temple at Kyoto, by the shores of a lake, surmounted with a large bird with its wings outstretched ; behind it a hill rises out of the mist.
2. Tsuten Bridge spanning a gorge, through which rushes a torrent, with red maples on either bank, and people picnicking.
3. View of Arashi-yama, famous for its cherry trees. A hill-side covered with pines and blossoming fruit trees ; at the foot runs the Oi River along which two men are poling a raft.
4. "The Village of Yase"; a path through fields, along which women with loads on their heads are walking.
5. A large boat being poled along the Yodo River with a company o people under a straw awning having refreshment, served from a small boat tied alongside ; above shines a full moon with a light cloud across it.
6. Gion Temple under snow. The torii, railings, and stone lanterns at the entrance to the temple grounds, and three women just outside, and a fourth, all with umbrellas, coming out. In the background, the roofs of the temple buildings covered with snow falling from a dark sky. The masterpiece of the set, frequently illustrated.
7. Shimbara, one of the gates of the Yoshiwara quarter of Kyoto, and a reveller being escorted out in the early dawn ; overhead a crescent moon. Another fine plate. (See Plate 21.)
8. Storm on the banks of the Tadasu River. Tea-houses by the riverside under a heavy downpour of rain, and people rushing for shelter. In the foreground, two people hurrying across a plank bridge ; in the background, a forest of trees rendered misty through the downpour. In best impressions sky should be black at top, and trees stand out distinct against a graded grey background. Another masterpiece. (See Plate 2i.)
9. View of the Kiyomidsu Temple standing on the hill-side amongst cherry trees in bloom ; tea-house on left.
10. People taking "evening cooling" in the dry bed of the Kamo River at Kyoto. Another fine plate, the deepening shadows of nightfall producing a wonderful atmospheric effect.
HONCHO MEISHO, "Celebrated Views of the Main Island." A set
of which fourteen prints are known (Happer collection) ; full size, oblong
; publisher Fujihiko (Matsubarado)
; very rare.
According to the Happer catalogue the following are the titles to the fourteen plates :
1. The Seven Ri Beach, Enoshima.
2. Cave of Enoshima, Province of Soshu, with a great wave breaking on shore.
3. Approach to Akiwa Temple.
4. Ferry over the Fuji River, with a view of Fuji.
5. View of Tempozan, Osaka.
6. Ascent of Horaiji.
7. Reflected Moon, Sarashina.
9. Kyomi Beach, Suruga.
10. Fuji from Satta Point.
11. Hot Springs at Hakone.
12. The Nuno-biki Waterfall, Sesshu Province.
13. Beach at Maiko on the Inland Sea.
14. Ama-no-hashi-date, one of the three celebrated views of Japan.
Nihon Minato Tsu-kushi, "The Harbours
of Japan" ; ten full-size, oblong views, published by MARUSEI ; rare.
The harbours are Yedo ; Nakasu, in Yedo Bay ; Shinagawa ; Tepposu ; the Agi River at Osaka ; Marugame, Province of Sanuki ; Muronotsu, Harima Province ; Uraga ; Shimi-zu, Suruga Province ; and Shimonoseki.
Sankai Mitate Sumo, "Mountain and Sea
compared like Wrestlers," the title written in the top corner on
a fan such as is used by the umpire at a wrestling match. An uncommon
set of twenty views, oblong, published by YAMADA-YA, whose seal is on
each print, ten being of coast and sea scenery and ten of mountains. Some
views are dated Horse 7 and others Horse 8, that is the 7th and 8th months
of the year 1858. This series, therefore, must have been the last one
Hiroshige saw completed, as he died in the autumn of 1858 ; his "Thirty-six
Views of Fuji" he did not live to see as prints. It is curious
to see Hiroshige reverting once more to his original oblong shape the
last year of his life.
His signature is on a red label, like on his various upright series, a device employed from 1850 onwards.
As examples from this series we quote the following views :-
1. Echigo, Kamewari Toge. Kamewari Hill, Echigo Province. Considered one of the best plates in the series. View of a winding road round a narrow inlet, leading up through the mountains, which rise sheer up from the water; a rest-house at a bend in the road along which travellers are passing. Dated Horse 8.
2. Marunami, Sanuki. Marunami, Province of Sanuki. View from above the harbour looking across the sea to islands in the distance ; on the left, overlooking the harbour, stands a castle amid trees. Dated Horse 8.
3. Echizen, Mikuni. Mikuni, Province of Echizen. View from the seashore, off which several junks are at anchor, and parties of people sitting by the water's edge, or strolling about. Dated Horse 8.
4. Uraga no ura, Sagami. Uraga Bay, Sagami Province. View of a narrow, enclosed harbour with several junks at anchor, two lowering sails ; headland juts out from the right, with a beacon at its point. Dated Horse 7.
5. Tanokuchi, Province of Bizen. View over a bay in centre of which stands a great rock shaped like a ship in full sail ; hilly coast beyond. In right foreground a village lying on the shores of an inlet in a semicircle, and a torii erected on a reef of rocks in the water close in shore ; junks at anchor. Dated Horse 8. (See Plate 21, Illustration 4.)
With reference to the dating of the foregoing series, the oval form of the seal, and the fact that there are no inspectors' or aratame seals, fix the date as for the year 1858 ; the previous Horse year (1846) fell within the Prohibition period (1842-1853).
SETTSU GEKKA, "Snow,
Moon, and Flowers." A set of three full-size, oblong prints ;
publisher Maru-ya Jimpachi. Very rare.
1. "Snow at Benten Shrine." View of the shrine on its island in the Shinobazu Lake at Uyeno, and snow falling.
2. "Catching Fish by Moonlight on the Tama River." A group of men and a boy under a willow tree, and two women with nets under another tree ; in the middle distance a bridge, and a full moon shining above. A beautiful moonlight scene.
3. "Cherry-blossom Season on Koganei Bank." A river lined with cherry trees in blossom on both banks, and in the foreground a bridge over it ; Fuji in the distance.
HAKONE SHICHI-TO, "The Seven Hot Springs of Hakone" ; a series of seven full-size, oblong plates ; publisher Sanoki ; dated Rat 12 = 12th month, 1852 ; very rare. The seven springs illustrated are : Yumoto, Ashinoyu, Kiga, Miyanoshita, Sokokura, Dogashima, and Tonosawa.