Art on Tuesday: The Jewel River of Bush Clover

Utagawa Toyoharu 歌川豊春 (c. 1735-1814) painted a series of ukiyo-e called The Fashionable Six Jewel Rivers 風流六玉川. This one is showing the Jewel River of Bush Clover 萩 in Yamashiro, a historical province located in today’s south of Kyôto. These jewel rivers or crystal rivers were painted by ukiyo-e artists often. You clearly see an influence of Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木 春信 (c. 1725-1770) in the style of this woodblock print.

Source: MFA Boston

Art on Tuesday: Leisure in the Floating World

Ukiyo-e by Torii Kiyonobu I 鳥居 清信 (1664–1729) painted around 1720. He is one of the founders of the Torii-school of painting and known for his Kabuki related motifs. This picture is named: 浮世つれずれ. Two women of the pleasure quarters are reading in their leisure time.

Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Art on Tuesday: Water Lilies

Water lilies painted by Ohara Koson 小原 古邨 (1877-1945) ca. 1920. Ohara is known for his woodblock paintings often showing birds, fishes, trees, flowers and landscape motifs in different variations. He made several pictures of lotus and water lilies, which are very beautiful. Look at Art on Tuesday: Lotus.

Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Art on Tuesday: Naruto Whirlpools

This very famous ukiyo-e made by Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川 広重 (1797-1858) is called Naruto Whirlpools in the Awa Province (1855). Naruto is located at the Shikoku coast. The Naruto whirlpools 鳴門の渦潮 are a natural phenomenon, which can be watched even today. Utagawa Hiroshige painted another very similar ukiyo-e with wave motifs shown on Japan Kaleidoskop on August 2013.  It is a View of Mount Fuji at Suruga Beach on the Pacific coast of Honshû.

Art on Tuesday: Arashima

A Panoramic View of Arashiyama from the Triple Teahouse 嵐山三軒家より眺望 by Hasegawa Sadanobu 長谷川貞信 I painted in 1870/71 as a part of his series Famous Places in the Capital. Arashima is located in western Kyôto. You see a green rural landscape with a calm atmosphere. In the center the lake with two boats, on the right the teahouse mentioned in the title. On the left Arashima’s hillside. At the beach are some cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Arashima is a nice place to visit.

Art on Tuesday: Shin-Ohashi Bridge at Atake

Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川 広重 (1797-1858) painted a Sudden Shower over the Shin-Ohashi Bridge at Atake which is an interesting woodblock print. It is part of his series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo made in 1857.

There is not much happening, but everyone surely knows how a sudden rain shower in summer feels like. See the pitch dark cloud at the sky. The people on the bridge are hiding from the rain under their umbrellas and trying to get as quickly as possible over the bridge. In the background you see a man on a raft-like boat.

The same bridge was also portrayed by Koho Shoda (1871-1946) as a night scene. A totally different atmosphere. See it also in the post of Japan Kaleidoskop of June 2015.

Book Review: The Thief

Nakamura Fuminori 中村 文則 born in 1977 in Tôkai is an author of several novels. His book The Thief (掏摸), published in 2009, won the famous Ôe Kenzaburô Prize in 2010 and was highly praised by the International press.

The Thief is a psychological thriller of a pickpocket in modern Tokyo. Nishimura is a loner living  in the big city with no family or social ties whatsoever. On his trips through crowded streets and the underground, he skillfully reaches out into the pockets of his fellow men. He has a strict moral compass: his victims are mainly wealthy gentlemen and using violence is not an option.

One gets to know his tricks in detail and soon learns about his criminal past, which unfolds to the reader in the ongoing story.

Written from the perspective of the thief Nishimura, we learn about his thoughts and actions. As the story evolves he is getting deeper and deeper into trouble. Mainly because of his entanglement with a violent mobster boss. It was taking my breath away, when I read how Nishmura was threatened into his actions by mobsters and it seems there is no exit for him.

But being under pressure from the mob is not his only problem. His life changes in unforeseen ways. One day on his daily pickpocket tours in Tôkyô he watches a poorly performance of a cranky woman and her little son, both shoplifting for groceries. Showing empathy for the boy Nishimura rescues them from being caught by the clerks, which is the beginning of a bittersweet friendship. On a closer look one can consider the boy as a younger version of Nishimura. The book is exciting and philosophical. I enjoyed reading it.

中村 文則: 掏摸, 2009. Nakamura Fuminori: The Thief, 2012.

Art on Tuesday: Tenman-gu in Ôsaka

Hasegawa Sadanobu I (1809–1879) painted this interesting ukiyo-e named The Temporary Shrine of the Tenman-gû 天満宮御旅所 as part of his series One Hundred Views of Ôsaka in 1869/70. It is a beautiful scene from the perspective of the river showing one leisure boat from the side with two Japanese women. In the background of the river you see two punts with barrels. The Tenman-gu Shrine in Ôsaka 大阪天満宮 was build in the 10th century, but often burned down and was then rebuild many times. The Tenjin-Matsuri is held here on July 24th and 25th every year as one of the biggest festivals in Japan.

Source: Museum of Fine Arts

Art on Tuesday: Fushimi Inari Shrine

Hasegawa Sadanobu I. 長谷川 貞信 (1809-1879) painted an ukiyo-e series called Famous Places in the Capital, which was Kyôto in earlier days. This picture is the scenery of the Fushimi Inari taisha 伏見稲荷大社 of 1870-1871. A very famous place and a frequently visited tourist spot even today.

Source Museum of Fine Arts

Art on Tuesday: Early Summer


Uemura Shôen (上村松園) painted this young lady. It is an early summer scene. She is holding a round fan, observing and maybe trying to catch a firefly. The title of this picture is “An evening in early summer” (初夏の夕). She wears a light green kimono with a blue obi, look at the emblem-like cranes. The crane 鶴 (tsuru) is a symbol for longevity and good luck.