As many of our readers may already be familiar with the Cortazzi Map Collection through a series of our e-magazine articles, I would like to take the opportunity in this article to introduce the Cortazzi Ukiyoe Collection. The Collection comprises of 43 titles of polychrome woodblock prints on long-term loan from Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi to the Lisa Sainsbury Library. Amongst the prints are 25 titles classified as ‘Yokohama-e’ (literally, Yokohama pictures). They typically represent scenes including non-Japanese figures that were produced around the latter part of 19th century when the Meiji restoration brought an end to the era of shogunate rule in Japan. The Collection here in the Lisa Sainsbury Library have been digitised with the help of the Art Research Centre at Ritsumeikan University and are available for on-line viewing through the link here. The interface is currently in Japanese only , however, we hope that an English interface would be created in the future.
The Yokohama-e I would like to draw your attention to in this issue are the polychrome woodblock prints issued by the Ministry of Education for pedagogical purposes, called ‘Monbushō hakkō kyōiku nishiki-e’. Japan having restored power to the Emperor in 1868 with the Meiji Restoration established the Ministry of Education in 1871 (Meiji 4), which introduced a new and modern schooling system on 3 August 1872 (Meiji 5). In October the following year in 1873 (Meiji 6), the Ministry of Education issued a mandate stipulating that ‘in order to improve the education of families with young children, […] the Ministry will produce a variety of art and toy products appropriate for children soon entering schools.’ As part of this commitment, the Ministry produced and distributed over the course of the next few years, polychrome nishiki-e prints depicting pedagogical themes. Seven sets were sent to Tokyo City while a set was distributed to each of the other regional prefectures. While the actual number of images depicted is uncertain, 104 different examples have been confirmed.
The Cortazzi Collection holds two of the fifteen pedagogical prints from the Ministry’s ‘Western machine inventors’ series. The series is understood to be based on Nakamura Masanao’s Saikoku risshi hen (‘ambitious undertakings by western countries’) published in 1870 (Meiji 3). Saikoku risshi hen is a Japanese translation of the Scotsman Samuel Smiles’ (1812-1904) book, Self-help: with illustrations of character and conduct. The translated version features prominent Western inventors, scholars and artists, each with his biography and a large Ōban print depicting the individual. The translator, Nakamura Masanao is one of Meiji era’s key education reformists who served as the first principal at the Tokyo Joshi Shihan Gakko (Tokyo girls’ school) established by the Central Government in 1874. While a principal there, he also established an affiliated preschool to the School, and actively championed women’s education. He argued that for Japan to cement its place as a modern nation, it was essential to provide women with quality education in order to cultivate good mothers who would positively influence their children’s education. This in turn was expected to help shape the character of the Japanese people. Nakamura is believed to have been involved in the creation of the Western machine inventors’ print series. While none of the fifteen prints from the series depict women as the protagonist (suggesting a cultural period where women were not expected to serve such roles), female characters do appear in seven of the prints. The way in which they are included suggest that whoever was responsible for producing the series deliberately chose episodes that directly related to women.
The two prints in the Cortazzi Collection present the life story of Richard Arkwright, who invented the spinning machine, and James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine. Both feature women in the images.
While there is no artist name attributed to the images, historian Okano Motoko argues that they are most likely to be the disciples of Utagawa Kuniteru from the Kunisada school of artists. Closer inspection suggests that the illustrations were modeled after an existing image. From the detailed tile work on the fireplace hearth to the serpentine fender, fire tools and the turned legs of the balloon back chair, in addition to the cup and scale positioned on the desk in Watt’s image, are depicted with convincing details that would have been difficult for a Japanese artist to simply conjure from imagination. Nakamura Masanao’s translated volumes, Saikoku risshi hen, do not contain any image. Furthermore, while Smile’s book title, Self-help: with illustrations of character and conduct, includes ‘illustration’ in its title, the actual book content, however, contains none. If any reader of this article has come across or is aware of a copy of Smile’s publication that includes illustrations, please contact the author.
The short story that accompanies the image in the print mentions that:
‘The Englishman, Arkwright, devoted many years to create a spinning machine at the expense of his family’s fortune. His wife, seeing the family coffer emptied with little promise of success became incensed and destroyed Arkwright’s model of a spinning wheel. Arkwright in return admonished his wife and chased her out of the house. He has subsequently produced a successful spinning machine and amassed a great fortune.’
Smile’s ‘Self-help’ recounts a similar story on Arkwright.
‘Being of a mechanical turn, he devoted a good deal of his spare time to contriving models of machines, and, like many self-taught men of the same bias, he endeavoured to invent perpetual motion. He followed his experiments so devotedly that he neglected his business, lost the little money he had saved, and was reduced to great poverty. His wife—for he had by this time married—was impatient at what she conceived to be a wanton waste of time and money, and in a moment of sudden wrath, she seized upon and destroyed his models, hoping thus to remove the cause of the family privations. Arkwright was a stubborn and enthusiastic man, and he was provoked beyond measure by this conduct of his wife, which he never forgave; and he, in consequence, separated from her.’
Smile writes the following in regards to James Watt:
‘The Englishman Watt, in his attempt to create the steam engine, used a spoon and measured the rate at which the steam from a kettle would turn into a water drop, one water drop at a time. His aunt, seeing his peculiar method, scolded him for wasting his time on a useless task. He persevered nonetheless to finally invent the steam engine and found success.’
Incidentally, while Watt is mentioned in Nakamura’s Saikoku risshi hen, his aunt is absent in the book nor does she appear in Smile’s Self-help book. While the person who penned the story on Watt remains uncertain, the author believes that Nakamura may have been involved, who in his hope to promote the importance of women’s education opted not to provide an example of a negative intervention by a woman.
The individuals featured in the ‘Western machine inventors’ series, in addition to Arkwright and Watt are listed below. Details of the prints and the inscriptions on the individuals who appear in the series are all available for viewing except for Böttger on the Tsukuba University Library’s website.
- Audubon, John James (1785-1851)
- Böttger, Johann Friedrich (1682-1719）
- Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881)
- Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790)
- Heathcoat, John (1783-1861)
- Heilmann, Josue (1796-1848)
- Lee, William (unknown-1610)
- Palissy, Bernard (c.1510-1589?)
- Peel, Robert P. (1750-1830)
- Reynolds, Joshua (1723-1792)
- Tiziano, Vecellio (c.1490-1576)
- Vaucanson, Jacques de (1709-1782)
- Wedgwood, Josiah (1730-1795)
- Aoyama, Takako. ‘Meiji ki no hakurankai wo tsūjita kyōiku gainen no fukyū: Kyōiku nishiki-e no tenji no hensen wo tagakari ni’ in Ukiyoe geijutsu: Kokusai ukiyoe gakkaishi (166), pp 5-19, 2013.
- Okano, Motoko, ‘”Monbushō hakkō nishiki-e” no kenkyū’ in Nihon bijutsu kenkyū no 2, 2002.
- Furuya, Takako. ‘A study of the visual-educational media in early Meiji era : the historical significance of educational pictures made by the Ministry of Education’ in Shōgai gakushū shakai kyōiku kenkyū. No 31, 2006.
- Okano, Motoko, ‘”Monbushō hakkō nishiki-e” no kenkyū’ in Nihon bijutsu kenkyū no 2, 2002.
Aoyama, Takako. ‘Meiji ki no hakurankai wo tsūjita kyōiku gainen no fukyū: Kyōiku nishiki-e no tenji no hensen wo tagakari ni’ in Ukiyoe geijutsu: Kokusai ukiyoe gakkaishi (166), pp 5-19, 2013.
Furuya, Takako. ‘A study of the visual-educational media in early Meiji era : the historical significance of educational pictures made by the Ministry of Education’ in Shōgai gakushū shakai kyōiku kenkyū. No 31, 2006.
Furuya, Takako. ‘Meiji shoki ni okeru shikaku kyōiku media seisaku no shisōteki haikei ni kansuru kōsatsu’ in Tokyo Daigaku daigakuin kyōiku kenkyū ka kiyo, no 46, 2007.
Inoue, Motoko. Kinsdai kyōiku nishiki-e on kenkyū: “Monbushō hakkō kyōiku nishiki-e” ni okeru zuzō kaishaku to sono konkyo. Thesis (doctoral), Tsukuba University, 2013.
Okano, Motoko, ‘”Monbushō hakkō nishiki-e” no kenkyū’ in Nihon bijutsu kenkyū no 2, 2002.
Special thanks to:
Mr Kei Nakasone, Isseido Bookseller
Hirano Akira, Librarian
Lisa Sainsbury Library
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