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Japan - gymnastics. 体操教範 [Taiso Kyohan - Manual of Gymnastics]. Ministry of War, 1884 (Meiji 17). 150x110mm in what appear to be original cloth backed boards (spine a touch nibbled); 37 double folded leaves (ie 74pp) and 73 full page illustrations (5 folding) numbered to 32 with several bis. A little worming, nothing notable, and a couple of small stains; a quite good fresh copy. Possibly lithographed throughout. Au$300

The Japanese first got in French experts on military physical training in the late 1860s and the first Japanese book I've been able to trace was a translation of part of an 1847 manual the French visitors brought with them. That is I've traced mention of it, not the book itself. This manual also has the look of coming from a French manual but, being light on in French gymnastic manuals of the mid nineteenth century here, I don't know which one. Certainly it models the fine mustachios that became de rigueur for dashing Japanese officers. The Taiso Kyohan apparently also became the model for gymnastics in secondary schools as the idea of physical education was introduced into Japan. There were many editions of the Taiso Kyohan, presumably updated and changed as the decades went on but I'm unable to trace any copy this early in a library catalogue.


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Charles Spencer. Fusen Nori Uwasa Takadono [in 歌舞伎新報 (Kabuki Shinpo - Kabuki News)]. Tokyo, Kaneko Genzo, Kabuki Shinpo Co., 1891 (Meiji 24). Octavo publisher's? wrapper with printed title label; three colour woodcut titles and 13 colour woodcut plates. Au$275

Kabuki Shinpo was a sophisticated Kabuki magazine that printed the texts of plays as well as gossip and critical pieces. It ran between 1879 and 1897 and was apparently issued in gathered volumes such as this; containing thirteen plays. Here is one of the most fascinating of the period. Aeronaut Charles Spencer - of the Spencer aeronautic dynasty - came to Japan in 1890 with his balloons and parachutes performing his balloon ascent and parachute descent stunts in Yokohama and in Ueno Park in Tokyo in November 1890. He is said to have injured himself slightly having to avoid the royal tent during a command performance. Tokyo went balloon mad - again, they had a craze years earlier - and Spencer's performance was made into a Kabuki dance play - Fusen Nori Uwasa Takadono (Riding the Famous Hot-Air Balloon, see Brandon; Kabuki Plays on Stage) by premier dramatist Kawatake Mokuami - which ran for a month in early 1891. The Kabuki star Kikugoro V played Spencer with waxed moustache, hat - and in this print natty striped socks - and learnt a short speech in English for the finale.


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Exhibition - Tokyo 1907. 風俗画報 . 東京勧業博覧会図会 [Special number of Fuzoku Gaho devoted to the 1907 Tokyo Industrial Exhibition]. Tokyo 1907. Small quarto publisher's illustrated wrapper (spine worn); four double page plates (two colour), one tinted full page plate, b/w photo illustrations. A bit used but a pretty good copy. English translations of the plate captions on typed slips are loosely inserted. Au$175

The Fuzoku Gaho (1889 - 1916) was Japan's first graphic magazine. I'd like to know who the artist was of some of these plates. They masterfully capture the eagerness for the new, the wonder, the distractions, the shared delights, and the weary resignation of some parents. The 1907 exhibition was conceived as an international exhibition but this ambition fizzled due to lack of enthusiasm, if not nerve, on the part of officialdom. Nonetheless this was big stuff, expansive in its inclusion of technology, culture, the arts and popular entertainment - introducing not one but two ferris wheels to Tokyo. It did pretty good business, atttracting some six or seven million visitors.


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Teruha toiletry poster. 白麗水. [Hakuresui or Hakureisui]. A shop poster for Hakuresui toiletry to whiten the skin and remove blemishes. Osaka, Takegaki Shokai c1910. Colour lithograph 53x38cm on quite heavy paper. In excellent condition with the original metal strips, top and bottom, and ribbon loop for hanging in a shop. Au$1500

Among the myriad images that use race superiority and fear to sell goods - particularly soaps, toiletries and cosmetics - this is the weirdest and most hypnotic that I've ever seen. The weirdness intensifies if you know that the model is Teruha, maybe Japan's most famous geisha and pin-up girl at the end of the Meiji and through the Taisho period. Born Tatsuko Takaoka, in this poster she is 14 or so and has possibly graduated from her apprentice name, Chiyoha. Sold by her father at 12, her virginity was soon sold to the president of the Osaka stock exchange and by the time she was 14 she had been engaged to one wealthy business man, promised to another and had a secret affair with an actor. The extended left pinkie finger must be a joke about her misguided sacrifice to love which earnt her yet another name: the Nine Fingered Geisha. Before and after - or with and without - comparisons were nothing new in Japanese advertising. Neither were celebrities: courtesan prints sold patent medicines long before the Americans arrived and Bismarck adorned adverts for a patent syphilis cure that did for medicine what Bismarck did for Germany. Darkie - coon, nigger, whatever you want to call it - advertising images were obviously not unknown but neither can they have been familiar enough to be taken for granted and reproduced to the American and British formula in the way that the jazz age negro became a standard pattern to be played with by artists and designers in Japan as everywhere else. There is more than hint of a jovial tengu, spirit or minor god here, but for that suit.


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Ginza. 銀座通り之真景 [Ginza-dori no Ma Kei]. Tokyo, Urashima-do 1919 (Taisho 8). Colour lithograph 40x54cm. Some rumpling and short marginal tears. Au$150

This is a self titled true picture of the Ginza but I suspect it was seen a few years earlier. Maybe it's not photo-realism but how else to capture the excitement of strolling the Ginza on a Taisho afternoon? The style, the wealth, all the achievements of modernity around you and overhead. And not without drama. There are no signs of poverty, no beggars or thieves, so why has that well fed dog with a collar run off with the boy's parcel?


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Hikifuda. A large hikifuda - handbill - or modest poster for Kyoto haberdashery bargain sales. n.p. [Kyoto 190-?]. Colour lithograph 37x26cm. An outstanding copy. Au$450

This splendidly flamboyant and assertive modern young Japanese woman is unlike any other I've seen from this period. Being able to decipher phrases like "bargain sale" but unable to decipher the trademark or any particular merchant's name here I suspect this is a sample produced by or for Kyoto silk merchants and haberdashers. Being on much heavier paper than usual for hikifuda clinches the matter for me.


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Tokyo Peace Memorial Exhibition 1922. 平和記念東京博覧会第二会場之美観 [Heiwa Kinen Tokyo Hakurankai Ni Kaijo Kore Bikan?]. Tokyo 1922 (Taisho 11). Colour lithograph, 39x54cm. Rumpled with some short tears repaired. Not indecent. Au$250

An average afternoon in Taisho Tokyo before the earthquake, to judge by the lurid lithographs that came into fashion at the end of the Meiji. Life was brisk, vivid to the point of hallucination, crammed with progress and novelty; the skies buzzed with planes and airships. The seaplane was one of the hits of the exhibition. The 1922 Peace Memorial Exhibition, celebrating the League of Nations and a bright future, was the most lavish national Expo ever held.


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Tokyo. 東京名所万世橋広瀬中佐銅像 [Tokyo Meisho Manseibashi Hirose Chuza Dozo?]. Tokyo 1913 (Taisho 2). Colour lithograph 27x40cm. A bit rumpled. Lightly tipped at two corners onto card. Au$150

The statue of Hirose Takeo - Russo-Japanese War hero - was erected in 1910 and in 1913 the monumental pile of Manseibashi station - opened in 1912 - should be right behind him. It would spoil the composition of this view so it has understandably been omitted. Once the eyes stop watering these acid trip views of late Meiji and Taisho Japan start to make sense. They may have started as a cynical grab at attention for cheap, often nasty, prints but after a while they become a celebration of being in a place and time so exciting that no portrait can be too brightly, too impossibly, coloured. Photographs may be in some way a more reliable record but no photographer could gather the cast of characters - and the characters include trams and motor cars and the latest fashions - and arrange them to so capture the thrill of being out and about in Tokyo on a Taisho afternoon.


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Hikifuda. Benkyo Shoten? 和洋雑貨毛織物類 [Wayo Zakka Keorimono-rui]. Hikifuda - or handbill - for a sale of Japanese and western wool textiles. n.p. [190-?]. Colour lithograph broadside 38x26cm. A touch browned round the edges. Au$90

An exuberant yet elegant thoroughly up to the minute snapshot of a stylish woman - with her painfully exquisite daughter - graciously acknowledging the attention of the shop boy at a busy warehouse sale of fabrics.


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Hikifuda - fashion. 河喜商店. A small hikifuda - handbill - advertising fashion from Kawaki Shoten in Ogawamachi in Tokyo. Tokyo [c1910?]. Colour lithograph broadsheet 18x19cm. Illustration on one side, text in blue on the other. An old crease. Au$65

Small but chic. Is the young dandy wanting the stylish but undeniably bourgeois family to move on or is that merely a dandy's customary expression of disdain?


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Hiroshi Hara [?]. 港々の猟奇街 [Minatominato no Ryokigai]. Tokyo, Fuzoko Shiryo 1931 [Showa 6]. Octavo publisher's illustrated wrapper (a bit used); photo illustrations on ten pages, 167pp and three page publisher's list. Part of the series Dekameron Sosho. Au$200

A modest but characteristic contribution to the ero-guro-nansensu (erotic - grotesque - nonsense) fashion of late Taisho and early Showa Japan: jaunts among the strange denizens of ports. The small grainy photos are a gathering of the expected seamy misfits, outcasts and dock lowlife in the ports of the world mixed with a couple of baffling innocuous views and bar scenes from films. It will probably make sense to those who can read the book: the chapter headings - there are ten chapters of course - do seem to connect to the photos.


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Exposition - Beppu 1928. Hatsusaburo Yoshida. 中外産業博覧会 [Chugai Sangyo Hakurankai]. Kyoto? 1928 (Showa 3). Colour illustrated card cover 19x12cm with a 75cm long folding colour birds-eye view by Hatsusubaro on one side and text and photo illustrations on the other. Cover also by Hatsusubaro. Au$225

Panorama of and brief guide to the Chugai Industrial Expo held in Beppu in 1928. Beppu, on Kyushu, seems a brand new city built on the old spa town. Hatsusaburo Yoshida was phenomenon. No Japanese city, town, district, tourist site or attraction in the twenties and thirties could be without a Hatsusubaro birds-eye view and for twenty odd years he travelled up down the land creating some 3,000 of them. He did take on help later in his career. There were other birds-eye artists but they don't seem to have spent the time surveying the view nor have his talent for twisting the landscape into the shape needed to be evocative and useful. He returned sometimes and his views of cities ten years apart are probably the best guide to change we have. He did views of Hiroshima in the twenties and thirties and a final, numbing, series of the city as the bomb exploded and as a smoking ruin.


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