This beautiful ukiyo-e was made by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) in 1834. It is showing a flying canary in between peonies. The rich blue background and the pastel flowers are showing an interesting effect.
Peonies are growing in Asia, Western North America and Southern Europe. They are called 恵比須草 (ebisugusa, paeonia lactiflora) in Japanese. The roots of peonies are used as traditional medicine in China. Therefore they are regarded as a traditional floral symbol of wealth and nobility, also for good luck. Canaries 金糸雀 (kanaria) are a symbol of freshness and healing energies.
This ukiyo-e was painted by Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川広重 (1797-1858). It is part of his “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo” showing the so-called moon pine 上野山内月のまつ. It is named moon pine because people liked to watch the moon through the loop of the tree from different angles. Moon watching was popular in these days and maybe it is still today.
Another ukiyo-e of the same series is showing the pine tree from a different perspective: here you can see it standing in front of the Kiyomizu Hall beside the Shinobazu Pond in Ueno/Tokyo and can be viewed even today. The picture is called Kiyomizu-do and Shinobazu Pond at Ueno.
This beautiful artwork by Yoshida Hiroshi 吉田 博 (1876-1950) is called Drum bridge at the Kameido shrine in Tôkyô and was painted in 1927. This bridge and the garden of the Kameido shrine 亀戸天神社 are very popular in Japan and were painted by many artists throughout history.
The Strange Library (ふしぎな図書館: fushigi na toshokan) is a short story by Murakami Haruki.
The Japanese version was published with illustrations by Maki Sasaki in 2008. The story is based on a former different version (図書館奇談 toshokan kidan) published in the short story collection カンガルー日和 (kangaruu hiyori. Good weather for kangaroos) of 1986.
The Strange Library is told from the perspective of a shy little boy who loves to read. On his way back from school it pops into his mind to borrow some history books from the local library. Starting the moment he enters the building everything turns out very strange. First he is directed to room No. 107 in the basement where he never had been before and meets an odd librarian, who seems to inhabit this dusted dark area for ages.
The boy asks him politely for the book titles. The old man mumbles and rumbles on his way to a hidden archive in the back of the library. When he returns with the books, he tells the boy, that it is forbidden to take them home. He has to stay and read them in a separate study room. Now the boy is slightly scared by the man, and the thought of staying here any longer makes him feel uncomfortable, but he is also feeling obliged to go to the reading area and make no fuss about it.
Intimidated he follows the old weird man further downstairs through a labyrinth. Finally reaching the room the boy sits down to read. After a short while the sheepman arrives on the scene. He then tells him, that the boy is being held hostage. A wild and spooky story unfolds with an unforeseen twist at the end.
In this early work Murakami makes use of surreal story telling, for which he is known as a bestseller author. The book is pretty short, but along with many illustrations it is an entertaining read. For students with intermediate language skills the Japanese version is relatively easy to understand.
Translations are available in many languages. I have seen the English and German versions of the book. The illustrations are very different from the Japanese version.
ふしぎな図書館 by 村上春樹. Illustrated by 佐々木木マキ。2008.
Watanabe Seitei 渡辺 省亭 (1851-1918) painted Irises and Frog in 1916, an elegant and charming ukiyo-e.
Watanabe was a Japanese artist, who visited Europe early in the 19th century, where he was awarded at the Universal Exposition of 1878 in Paris. He lived in France for three years studying and practising art. He is known in and outside Japan as a wonderful artist, who combined Japanese and Western elements in his paintings, ceramics, cloisonné and illustrations.
This picture is called: Awazu seiran 粟津 晴嵐 Mountain vapor of Awazu. From the series Eight Views of Ômi 近江八景. It is made by Kitao Masayoshi 北尾 政美, also known as Kuwagata Keisai 鍬形蕙斎 (1764-1824).
The inscription of the poem is given here at the website of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Totoya Hokkei 魚屋 北渓 (1780–1850) painted this picture in 1827. His ukiyo-e are often combined with poems as he illustrated several books. He is well-known as an excellent pupil of Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎.
This ukiyo-e made by Totoya Hokkei 魚屋 北渓 (1780-1850) is one of three pictures of a series. This one is called: First Dream of Mount Fuji in a Set of Three 初夢三番 富士.
Hatsuyume (初夢) means the first dream in the first night of a new year, which is foreseeing the future of the coming year. According to the traditional Japanese calendar January 2 is therefore named hatsuyume. Mount Fuji is always a symbol of good luck.
You can find a Japanese inscription of the poem at the website of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Kobayakawa Kiyoshi 小早 川清 (1897-1948) painted this Japanese woman. The Japanese artist produced several pictures of women in daily situations. This one shows a woman applying her makeup. It is a very beautiful and graceful scene. The woodblock print is the second of his ukiyo-e series called: Fashions of the Modern World. Makeup. 近代時世粧ノ内 二 化粧 . As written in the subtitle of the picture.
Source: Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
This woodblock print shows the “Kashima Dance of the Floating World” 鹿島浮世踊 made by Kitao Shigemasa 北尾重政 (1739-1820), published in the 1760’s. It shows a ritual dance, performed by several dancers in a circle or a square carrying instruments like cymbals, drums, sticks and paper fans.
Source: Museum of Fine Arts