Art on Tuesday: The Fox Game

Geisha_Playing_the_Hand-Game_Kitsune-ken_(狐拳),_a_Japanese_rock-paper-scissors_variant,_by_Kikukawa_Eizan_(菊川英山)

The three geisha-girls are playing a hand-game called kitsune-ken 狐拳, it is comparable to rock-paper-scissor, a hand-game which is original Japanese and was adapted by the West. On the left side she represents the village head 庄屋, in the middle she plays the fox 狐, and the right girl plays the hunter 猟師. The rules are: the hunter beats the fox, the fox beats the village head, and he beats the hunter. Kikuzawa Eizan  菊川英山  (1787-1867) made this ukiyo-e in 1820.

Art on Tuesday: Sunset across the Ryôgoku Bridge

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Today’s post shows another picture of the series 36 views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎 of 1830. It is called 御厩川岸より両国橋夕陽見 Sunset across the Ryôgoku Bridge at the Sumida River in today’s Tôkyô. It shows a ferry-boat with some passengers and their luggage. The ferryman is moving the boat with a stick. In the background you see the Ryôgoku bridge and a blue Mount Fuji in the same color as the water in the front down by the ferry-boat.

Art on Tuesday: Mount Fuji seen from the Inume Pass

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This ukiyo-e is part of the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji 富嶽三十六景. It is picture number eight: Mount Fuji seen from the Inume Pass in Kôshû 甲州犬目峠. The series is one of the best-known ukiyo-e collection by Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎 (1760-1849). Mount Fuji comes in brown lava color with snow on top. In the middle of the picture is a green grass path where two groups of two people and two mules are walking.  On the right side of the pass there is fog and on the left the white parts seems to be snow. You can see also  a huge  pine tree in the centre of the picture.  I like the colors and the calm atmosphere. Looks like it is early in the morning, and it is a fresh start.

Art on Tuesday: Hot Spring Hotel

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A woman at a Hot Spring Hotel 温泉宿 made by Hashiguchi Goyô 橋口 五葉 (1880-1921) in his later years. The woodblock print has an interesting effect due to the contrast of the use of monochromatic white on the person in front and the colored background showing a plant in full bloom. She is relaxing after she took a bath at the onsen, which is a refreshing and delightful thing to do.

Art on Tuesday: View of Kônodai and the Tone River

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Utagawa Hiroshige I  歌川 広重 (1797–1858) painted The View of Kônodai and the Tone River 鴻の台とね川風景 as a part of his series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo in 1856. Utagawa created an illusion of distance in this scenic picture of a long riverbed. At the right side of the background you find Mount Fuji.  He added also some  lovely details: look at the three people at the cliff line, which gives you a hint of the cliff’s height. This is without doubt a beautiful view.

Art on Tuesday: Goldfish

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These two lovely goldfish were painted by Ohara Kôson 小原 古邨 (1877-1945). They are swimming in a pond, in the back you see some lotus leaves and  three buds. A goldfish 金魚 (kingyo) is a symbol of good fortune, wealth and prosperity in China and Japan. This is a motif Koson painted several times with different backgrounds. I like the transparent water-color and the easy movements. It is not very spectacular, but  has a calming effect.

Art on Tuesday: Seaweed Gathering

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This ukiyo-e is named The Seaweed-gathering Ritual at Nagato. It is part of the series Famous Places in the Provinces by Hokkei Totoya 北渓魚屋 (1780–1850) made in 1834/35. It must have been a very dangerous adventure. Big wave are rolling over two seaweed-gatherers and they have to run for their lives. The left man holds a stick with brown seaweed on top, whereas the right person has some green seaweed in his hand. A little hill of green seaweed is lying in the left corner of picture, on the ground of the ocean. The waves remind me of the famous ukiyo-e of Hokusai named The Great Wave of Kanagawa. And this is no surprise, because Hokkei was one of Hokusai’s students, who was a fishmonger before he became an artist.

Book Review: Manazuru by Kawakami Hiromi

manazuruThis morning I just finished reading Manazuru and it has a surprising and beautiful end. Manazuru is a very touching and meaningful novel about love and letting go, about the cycle of live.

Kawakami Hiromi takes you on a journey to Manazuru and the inner life of the writer Kei. She is working through a process of grief and is saying goodbye to her haunting memories of her relationship with her husband Rei.

He has left her ten years ago without saying a word. One day he did not come back and Kei had no clue about his reason and whereabouts.

The present story is told from Kei’s perspective. A woman in her early thirties living with her eight-year old daughter Momo and her mother in Tokyo. Her life went on after the disappearance of Rei. She even found a new lover, but she never could forget her husband — although it has been so many years.  Because he left her without a reason and no trace, it was impossible for Rei to let him go emotionally.

One day she is drawn to Manazuru, a place nearby the sea. A mysterious inner wish has taken her to go there and she hopes to find an answer of the past with Rei. This journey brings her some meaningful answers. Kawakami Hiromi tells the story of Kei  in a vivid, surprising and even sometimes funny way. It is easy to read and if you are grieving or not she brings lightness to you. Her thoughts about love and relationships are very deep and touching.

I liked Manazuru very much. If you have read other novels like The Briefcase or The Nakano Thrift Store with delight, I am sure you will love this one too.

川上 弘美. 真鶴. 2006. Kawakami Hiromi: Manazuru, 2010. Translated by Michael Emmerich.

Art on Tuesday: On the Road

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This ukiyo e was made by Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川 広重 (1797-1858) around 1836.
It is named Tsumago, of the series The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso kaidô 木曾街道六十九次, number 42. It shows how traveling was like in the old days along the Kiso river valley from Nihonbashi to Kyoto. Metaphorically speaking people are coming and going, each has to carry a different burden and a place to go.

Art on Tuesday: Octopus Fishing at Takasagi

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This ukiyo e by Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川 国芳 (1797-1861) was made in 1852. You see a woman reading to her cat wanting to know if she is deciding right away. The frame in the background shows a scene of octopus fishing at Takasago. The picture is part of a series called Auspicious Desires on Land and Sea and it is very popular.