• The First Western-style Circus in Japan by Utagawa Yoshitora

    The First Western-style Circus in Japan by Utagawa Yoshitora

    As the previous issue briefly mentioned the Western-style circus performed in the early Meiji era, this issue will introduce an ukiyo-e that depicts the first Western circus performed in Japan on record. The Tokugawa Shogunate was forced to open its ports to overseas trade due to the arrival of the Black Ships in 1853 and in 1854. This allowed foreigners to live and trade freely in Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Hakodate in 1859. The newly developed port of Yokohama, with its hint of exoticism, had become an interesting subject for ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e publishers in Edo sent a number of ukiyo-e artists to Yokohama, and through the eyes of those artists full […]

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  • Album of animals  by Seisai Yoshimura

    Album of animals by Seisai Yoshimura

    Following a request from an animal lover to feature a book on animals, this issue introduces the book entitled “Jūrui Gafu” (Album of Animals), which is the only book dedicated to animals among the special collections in the Lisa Sainsbury Library. This book was published in the early Meiji era, the exact year is unknown, by a publisher called Ōhashidō in Tokyo. All 20 pages of the book are polychrome woodblock-print illustrations. Each page is divided into two or three panes, and one species of animal appears in each pane with its name. In total there are 51 species depicted. The front cover of the book portrays an image of […]

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  • The Cortazzi Ceramic Collection

    The Cortazzi Ceramic Collection

    The previous issue of the E-Bulletin mentioned that the Sainsbury Institute was given three-dimensional objects as a long-term loan from Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi. Among these 70 objects, around three quarters (fifty-three) are ceramics. And among the ceramics, about a third (eighteen) were made by the prominent Mashiko1 potter, Shimaoka Tatsuzō (1919-2007). Along with his works, the collection includes some of the most renowned modern Japanese ceramic artists such as Sakaida Kakiemon XIII (1906-1982), Imaizumi Imaemon XII (1897-1975) and Miwa Kyūsetsu XI (1967-2003). All four of the ceramic artists were designated as holders of Important Intangible Cultural Properties, i.e. Living National Treasures. These generous gifts were given to the […]

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  • Lazuline Glass Vase with Translucent Lip

    Lazuline Glass Vase with Translucent Lip

    You may be acquainted with the Cortazzi Collections in the Lisa Sainsbury Library, such as old maps, ukiyo-e and antiquarian books, as they are regularly featured in this publication. In addition to these materials, Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi have also given three dimensional objects on long term loan. A glass vase created by Hamada Yoshio (1944-2011) is from the collection housed at the Sainsbury Institute.  Many of you might not be familiar with the glass artist Hamada Yoshio, but you might know his father, Hamada Shōji (1894-1978). Hamada Shōji was a renowned ceramic artist in Mashiko1, a Living National Treasure and one of the most important figures in the […]

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  • Japanese Wedding Ceremonies Old and New

    Japanese Wedding Ceremonies Old and New

    Wedding gowns are supposed to be white. This tradition is believed to be attributed to the legacy of the wedding gown worn by Queen Victoria in 1840. The custom of the bride in a white gown spread not only in Britain but also in many other countries of the world, including Japan, in the 20th century.   Some Japanese brides choose kimonos for their wedding day. Red and black are the colours1 generally chosen for wedding kimono, but white is also a popular colour. It is believed that brides chose the colour white influenced by the white wedding gown irrespective of Japanese tradition as a white kimono was traditionally worn for funerals in Japan2. Dressing […]

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  • The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting

    The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting

    I hope you all keep well and stay safe in these challenging times. In such strange and unusual circumstances, many of you may be bored with staying at home for more than a month. However, this situation is not unique. More than 300 years ago, in the early Qing dynasty (1644-1912) in China, there was an individual who was also forced to self-isolate, like us now, but it was due to his own illness. His name was Li Yu (1611-1680), who was a playwright, a novelist and a publisher, and an admirer of landscape painting. He used to travel around the countryside and enjoyed meeting people to discuss artists and […]

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  • Maps of Japan by Luis Teixeira

    Maps of Japan by Luis Teixeira

    I once introduced a map that has been described as ‘the earliest European rendition of Japan that depicts the state with a fair level of exactitude’ in the fourth issue of our e-magazine. It was a map sent from Luis Teixeira (dates unknown), a Portuguese cartographer, to Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598). Ortelius was a cartographer born in Antwerp. He amassed a large collection of maps, which he pulled together to create a compilation of the most advanced examples and published as Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in 1570 (1). This publication is considered to be the first recognized modern atlas in Europe (2). Popular indeed, it was republished a number of times over the […]

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  • Cortazzi Collections at the Lisa Sainsbury Library

    Cortazzi Collections at the Lisa Sainsbury Library

    If you are a regular reader of this column, you may have noticed that the vast majority of the special collections materials kept at the Lisa Sainsbury Library have been generously provided by Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi. Sir Hugh, who was the British Ambassador to Japan between 1980 and 1984, and his wife have been life-long supporters of the Institute. When he and his wife learned that an academic library was being built within the Institute, they took every opportunity to support us. The couple’s first major gift to the Sainsbury Institute came in 2001, back when the Library was still preparing to open. The pair selected around 800 […]

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  • Sumo prints

    Sumo prints

    Many of the Cortazzi ukiyo-e collection held at the Sainsbury Institute are Yokohama-e, or prints depicting non-Japanese foreigners. There are, however, some unique exceptions including Sumo-e or prints depicting sumo wrestlers. Sumo, as familiar to many, is a wrestling match that takes place on a dohyō mound. Two rotund yet herculean rikishi wrestlers battle out strength by forcing the opponent down to the ground or out of the circular ring. Recorded history of sumo dates back to early 8th century. The mention of sumo appears in Kojiki and Nihon shoki translated respectively as “Records of Ancient Matters” and “The Chronicles of Japan” (Yamada, 1982) and is said to have originated some 1500 […]

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  • Edo kirie zu area maps by Owariya

    Edo kirie zu area maps by Owariya

    During the Edo period (1615-1868), some 64% of Edo city (present day central Tokyo) was occupied by mansions and residences of daimyō feudal lords, hatamoto samurai and gokenin vassals serving the Tokugawa shogun (Masai, 1975). These dwellings were typically shielded from public view with tall boundary walls. With no name plate on house number or street signs to go by, visitors experienced tremendous difficulty in finding the right house. The western side of the Edo Castle was said to be especially challenging as the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, deliberately positioned the obscure residences of his samurai and other security forces, who were collectively called ōban gumi, in the area to […]

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  • Le Japon by M Breton: Part II

    Le Japon by M Breton: Part II

    Following on from my last e-magazine article, this article highlights further interesting details found in M Breton’s Le Japon, ou Moeurs, usages et costumes des habitans de cet empire (Japan: Customs and costumes of the inhabitants of this empire). Published in 1818 by A. Nepveu, this four volume set includes abundant illustrations to provide a glimpse into Japanese life. Amongst the images is this set of illustrations to the right found in volume 3. Captioned ‘Portraits de Japonais’ (portraits of Japanese), the set accompanies the section in the book on the different ways the Japanese wore their hair. The text describes how physicians and monks shaved their heads, which the image does illustrate. […]

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  • Le Japon by M. (Jean Baptiste Joseph) Breton

    Le Japon by M. (Jean Baptiste Joseph) Breton

    In June 2017, Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi gifted the Lisa Sainsbury Library with a set of four books printed in Paris in 1818. Entitled ‘Le Japon’ (see note 1 for the full publication title), each palm sized book contains 13 to 15 images in addition to the illustrations at the front and back pages of the book. Collectively, the set features 60 images. At the time of receiving the books, Sir Hugh asked us to both scan and find the original source of the printed illustrations. Since then, I have scoured other historical sources and documents as well as received new insights and guidance from a number of generous […]

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  • Album of One Hundred Birds by Kōno Bairei

    Album of One Hundred Birds by Kōno Bairei

    The title introduced in this edition is the Album of One Hundred Birds by Kōno Bairei at the request of its donor, Sir Hugh Cortazzi. The title contains images by Kōno Bairei, a prominent artist in the Kyoto art circle in the early Meiji period (1868-1912). Published in 1881, the three-volume album set contains dual chrome woodblock printed images bound in Eastern-style. Unfortunately, only the first of the three albums is housed in the Lisa Sainsbury Library. Inside the album, a single bird species accompanied by a plant (mainly flowers) that is native to the depicted creature’s habitat is presented over each spread. Each album contains some 30 images, and […]

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  • Sights and Scenes in Fair Japan

    Sights and Scenes in Fair Japan

    Many of the readers may have experienced the fortune of a stranger having a profound effect on one’s life. This is precisely what happened when Ogawa Kazumasa (Isshin) (1860-1929), a Meiji and Taishô era pioneer in photography and photographic print publishing, met Okabe Nagatomo (1855-1925), domain lord of the former Kishiwada domain near Osaka. In 1884, the virtually penniless 24-year-old Ogawa boarded the American naval ship as a sailor to travel to the United States to study the most advanced photography techniques. Studying in Boston while surviving on very little means, he met Sakakibara Kôitsu, a former samurai from Kishiwada domain. Sakakibara who felt sorry for Ogawa’s difficult circumstances wrote […]

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  • Photography Albums by Ogawa Kazumasa

    Photography Albums by Ogawa Kazumasa

    In this issue and next, I hope to introduce a series of photography albums by Ogawa Kazumasa, an early pioneer in Japanese photography, in response to a special request made by Sir Hugh Cortazzi, patron to the expanding Lisa Sainsbury Library’s rare books collection. Ogawa Kazumasa (1860-1929) was one of the key giants of the early Japanese photography world. Active from around the second half of 19th century to the early 20th century, Ogawa was a leading photographer and photographic print maker known for his ability to adopt cutting edge techniques in a period of rapid developments. Ogawa was the first Japanese to produce collotype prints in the country in […]

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  • Pedagogic polychrome nishiki-e prints published by the Ministry of Education

    Pedagogic polychrome nishiki-e prints published by the Ministry of Education

    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 […]

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  • Keepsake 1921

    Keepsake 1921

    95 years ago on 3 March 1921, the then 19-year-old Crown Prince Hirohito (later Showa Emperor) set sail from Yokohama port to spend nearly six months traveling abroad on the Japanese naval ship Katori, accompanied by another naval ship, Kashima. To organise the Imperial Prince’s tour to the West was a complex task and took nearly two years to plan beginning in 1919. The idea of the Western Tour began when Crown Prince Hirohito turning 18 on 29 April, 1919, and his ‘coming of age’ ceremony was held on 7 May. A special banquet was held in his honour on 10 May at the Kasumigaseki Imperial Palace. At the celebratory […]

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  • Tale of Two Historic Maps of Japan

    Tale of Two Historic Maps of Japan

    The Lisa Sainsbury Library holds 65 historic maps of Japan and the rest of the world. Produced in Japan and Europe, the important collection is on long-term loan to the Library by Sir Hugh Cortazzi, former British Ambassador to Japan, and Lady Cortazzi with a view to be donated in the future. The oldest map dates to 1528 and the collection also includes rare ceramic pieces with topographic images of Japan. The two unique maps featured in this edition are both from this collection. The first one is the late-17th century Kokudaka ezu (illustrated map of various domains and their agricultural land values) and the second is the mid-19th century Nihon zenkoku dōchū […]

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  • Letter from Yukio Mishima to Professor Geoffrey Bownas

    Letter from Yukio Mishima to Professor Geoffrey Bownas

    The Lisa Sainsbury Library holds a letter written in English by Mishima Yukio, who is considered to be one of the most distinguished literary figures of 20th century Japan, to the late Professor Geoffery Bownas in his lifetime. Geoffrey Bownas’ involvement with Japan began when he was drafted into the army in 1942 while still a student at Oxford University. It was in the army where he learned Japanese in order to decode Japanese transcrips. He later established the Japanese Studies department at Oxford University in 1954 and became the first Professor of Japanese Studies in 1965 at Sheffield University. Professor Bownas was also a devoted friend of the Institute […]

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  • The Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangement

    The Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangement

    The Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangement by Josiah Conder was published by Hakubunsha, a bookseller once in the Ginza district of Tokyo in 1891. One of the striking features of the book are the fourteen beautifully coloured woodblock prints of seasonal flowers, of which six are depicted by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Yoshitoshi is often associated with his rather grotesque ukiyo-e imageries. To see his more intimate character through his delicate flowers is all the more a delightful surprise. Other illustrations include four prints that depict room interiors by Kawanabe Kyōsui (1868-1925), the daughter of another celebrated ukiyo-e artist, Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889). Her images offer a glimpse of […]

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  • Map plate of Kyushu

    Map plate of Kyushu

    Lobed underglaze blue porcelain dish with map of Kyushu A porcelain dish with the map of Kyushu measuring some 24 centimetres in diameter is kept at the Lisa Sainsbury Library as part of the Cortazzi map collection. The inscription on the underside of its wooden box lid mentions the content being a gift to the then British Ambassador to Japan, Sir Hugh Cortazzi from the Director of Namban Bunkakan Museum, Kitamura Yoshiro on 3 November 1983. This day is observed as the ‘Day of Culture’ in Japan and is one of the country’s national holidays. In general ‘map dish’, as they are commonly referred to for their illustrated map designs, […]

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  • The Colour of London: Historic, personal & local

    The Colour of London: Historic, personal & local

    Published under Edward VII’s reign in 1907 by London publisher Chatto & Windus, this book was written by William John Loftie. Essays on the geographic history of London together with 26 colour and 12 sepia illustrations compose the book. The book appears to have been popular as in 1908, The Colour of Paris: Historic, personal & local was published, followed by The Colour of Rome: Historic, personal & local published in 1909, both with ample illustrations. While the authors differ across the volumes, the illustrations in the series are all by the Japanese artist Makino Yoshio, who went by an anglophile spelling of his name Markino. As many may already have a certain knowledge […]

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  • Papier-Shmetterlinge aus Japan

    Papier-Shmetterlinge aus Japan

    Curt Adoph Netto, who authored Papier-Shmetterlinge aus Japan, is perhaps a less well-known name even amongst the more versed Japanese art enthusiasts. Netto arrived in Japan in the early Meiji period as oyatoi gaikokujin, or foreign advisors hired by the Japanese government. He worked as the first Professor of Geology as well as Mining and Metallurgy at the Faculty of Science of Tokyo University, making Netto one of Japan’s metallurgy pioneers. Netto was born in Freiburg, Saxony in 1847. He studied at Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg between 1864 and 1869 where his mine inspector father and grandfather studied. There, he proved to be a star pupil having received an academic excellence award […]

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  • Morning Glories and Edo Period Japan

    Morning Glories and Edo Period Japan

    The English are world famous for their love of gardening. Perhaps less obvious is the horticultural enthusiasm of the Edo period Japanese, who were just as keen a gardener as the English. In fact, Japanese Edo period eras are often twinned with certain flowers and plants that became particularly fashionable during the period. For instance, camellia is associated with Kan’ei era, while azalea marked the Genroku era. Other examples include chrysanthemum of Seitoku, acer tree of Kyōhō, Ardisia crispa of Kansei, morning glory of Bunka-Bunsei, Japanese rhodea and pink of Tempō, and henka or ‘mutant’ morning glory of Kaei-Ansei eras. Such associations reflect the gardening fever experienced in many parts of Japan […]

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  • History of Textiles: Reproductions of Shōsōin Treasures

    History of Textiles: Reproductions of Shōsōin Treasures

    Let me first draw your attention to the image below. While it is difficult from a computer screen to detect the subtle texture, colour and lustre, the textile sample shown here is a woven fabric rather than an embroidered piece. This is one of 15 textile samples in the Lisa Sainsbury Library holdings entitled ‘History of Textiles’ (Orimono no henyō) produced by Kawashima Textile Manufacturers Ltd. (present day Kawashima Selkon) in 2001. The 15 exquisite fragments are reproductions of rare Japanese cloths made between 7th to 18th century. The folding case containing the samples is jewel like in itself. With hand-written title strip reading ‘History of Textiles: Collection of 15 […]

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  • Namban Ema: Illustrated Votive Plaque of Portuguese People Strolling in the City

    Namban Ema: Illustrated Votive Plaque of Portuguese People Strolling in the City

    This year falls on the Chinese zodiac Year of the Horse. The jūnishi or twelve symbols of the Chinese zodiacs are horary signs based on the point at which Jupiter can be found annually as it makes its twelve year orbit round the sun. The zodiac is divided into twelve parts with a particular Chinese character attributed to each point; the twelve animals were introduced later to help make each point easier to recognize. Evidence from archaeological excavation indicates that this Chinese astrological system was prevalent in Japan by the Kofun period (c. 3rd century – 538). However, according to recent research, equines were not domestic to Japan in the […]

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  • Nampō Gafu: Album of Birds and Flowers

    Nampō Gafu: Album of Birds and Flowers

    I would like to start my article for this e-magazine with a request to our readers to enlighten me on the album I am introducing here. Red and white plum blossom from Nampō Gafu: Album of Birds and Flowers. The book is bound in an accordion fold format and appears to have no evidence or trace of a title strip. In fact the book has no given title, preface or postface. The last page includes a postscript indicating that it was made (not printed, but hand painted) on the ‘First winter of Meireki 4 (1658)’. This date is rather peculiar, for Japan has a tradition of ascribing new era names […]

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  • Iaponiae Insvlae Descriptio

    Iaponiae Insvlae Descriptio

    The map introduced in this issue, the Iaponiae Insvlae Descriptio map, is the earliest European rendition of Japan that depicts the state with a fair level of exactitude. It is by Luís Teisera, a celebrated Portuguese cartographer who was backed by the Spanish court. In 1595 the Dutchman Abraham Ortelius published a map based on Teisera’s drawing inAdditamentum Quintum, Theatri Orbis Terrarum; the first edition of this atlas appeared in 1570. The map accurately plots various Japanese towns and their locations in Roman letters, and suggests that it was founded on information sent to Europe by Jesuits in Japan. In fact, although Teisera was a Jesuit, he himself never set […]

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  • Oldest map of Japan

    Oldest map of Japan

    Do you know why Japan is called ‘Japan’ in English and not ‘Nihon’ or ‘Nippon’ as it is pronounced in Japanese? It is said that Marco Polo was the first to bring Japan’s existence to the attention of Europe. The exact time and place of Marco Polo’s birth are unknown. However, today the accepted narrative is that he was born in 1254 in the Venetian Republic to a merchant family engaged in trade with the Middle East. In 1271, Marco Polo set off on a trading voyage to Asia by land with his father and uncle. For seventeen years they remained within China, which was then ruled by the Mongol […]

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  • History of Japan by Engelbertus Kæmpfer

    History of Japan by Engelbertus Kæmpfer

    “The history of Japan : giving an account of the ancient and present state and government of that empire, of its temples, palaces, castles and other buildings, of its metals, minerals, trees, plants, animals, birds and fishes, of the chronology and succession of the emperors, ecclesiastical and secular, of the original descent, religions, customs, and manufactures of the natives, and of their trade and commerce with the Dutch and Chinese : together with a description of the Kingdom of Siam”Written in High-Dutch by Engelbertus Kæmpfer ; and translated from his original manuscript, never before printed by J.G. Scheuchzer, with the life of the author, and an introduction; London : 1728 […]

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  • Atlas Japannensis by Arnoldus Montanus

    Atlas Japannensis by Arnoldus Montanus

    “Atlas Japannensis: being remarkable addresses by way of embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Emperor of Japan: containing a description of their several territories, cities, temples, and fortresses, their religions, laws, and customs, their prodigious wealth, and gorgeous habits, the nature of their soil, plants, beasts, hills, rivers, and fountains with the character of the ancient and modern Japanners.”Collected out of their several writings and journals byPrinted by Tho. Johnson for the author, and are to be had at his house in White Fryers, 1670. The Atlas Japannensis is the oldest book owned by the Lisa Sainsbury Library. The original Dutch version was published in Amsterdam in […]

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