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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet titled 亜墨利加舩号人物姓名録 [Amerika sengo jinbutsu seimei-roku - Details of the people from the American ships]. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1050

These illicit illustrated news sheets for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban. The columns of detail about the members of the ships - and it may well be fact - give this the authority of documentary evidence but what is immediately clear is that the artist drew this view of the procession carrying gifts from description. He certainly had never seen an American and had no authentic picture to copy from, so things unfamiliar have become things somewhat familiar: the Americans' odd hats are like those of the mongol Chinese, Americans carry swords so naturally they would be carried on their back. What must also have been described and is beautifully caught is that Americans are a shambling, undisciplined bunch but they seem cheery enough. So, why not use pictures of the Dutch as models? Was this issued in some provincial city where even images of the Dutch were unfamiliar? Did the differences as described overwhelm the similarities? Or, as I suspect, was it a canny commercial decision that a new alien race that looked much like the Dutch would sell no papers? The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - does have a copy of this among the fewer than twenty kawaraban they hold. I can't find one anywhere else.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet of a sumo wrestler defeating three American sailors while American and Japanese onlookers laugh and clap. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1150

These illicit illustrated news sheets for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plages, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban. A joyous depiction of perhaps the first international wrestling match in Japan? The text explains that first one, then two, then three foreigners took on the Sumo wrestler. Our artist captures the moment one hits the ground and the other two are about to follow him. The Americans are laughing hard enough to cry while two of the Japanese spectators take their role as critics or judges seriously. Are they a summation of Japanese reactions to the westerners: disapproval, delight and a clinical determination to do the job right? There exists a kawaraban perhaps by the same artist showing Sumo wrestlers delivering a gift of rice for the Americans to the beach close to their ships. Three wrestlers pirouhette and juggle hefty bales of rice like toys. There was quite a bit of fun in these meetings despite the arrogant aggression of Perry himself. The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - doesn't have a copy of this in their catalogue and I can't find one anywhere else.


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Suguroku. 飛行機戦争双六 [Hikoki Senso Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Tanoshiki Danshi 1928 (Showa 3). Colour illustrated broadside game, 40x55cm. Folded, a nice copy. Au$650

A near breath-taking tour de force display of the Japanese talent for blending infantile cuteness, mayhem and sinister threat. Most bellicose nations produced books, pictures and games of and for toddler soldiers but they were usually dressed up kids playing at soldiers. Here we race, using dice, with our child pilot from his farewell ceremony to his triumphant return, destroying any number of enemy ships and planes along the way. Telling is the implication in the last triumphant scene that most important nations of the world supported Japan's war aims; not the US perhaps but Texas was in their corner. Miyazaki is too young to have owned this when new but I can't help believing that images just like this lodged in the child and captivate the adult.


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Aso Yutaka. ノンキナトウサン出世双六 [Nonki na Tosan shusse sugoroku]. Tokyo, Hochi Shinbunsha 1925 (Taisho 14). Colour illustrated broadside game (54x79cm); folded, mild signs of use. With the circular portraits of the characters down the side which could be cut out and used as game pieces. Au$650

The new year extra from the newspaper Hochi Shinbun starring Japan's first serial comic strip hero Nonki Na Tosan - usually translated as Easy-going or Lazy Daddy - who first appeared in regular comic strips in the paper the year before. He owed some debt to Jiggs of Bringing Up Father but uncle Nonto was a thoroughly Japanese scapegrace and loafer who quickly made his way into games, toys and, in 1925, a short animated film. Now our game is presented as a film while the information I've found about the film, and all the toys, suggests that they were piracies; comic characters were not protected by copyright. Perhaps an all round notion that popular comic strips and film are natural partners explains what may or may not be a coincidence. This may be Nonto's first sugoroku but it certainly wasn't his last. Come the early thirties as the manga craze blossomed our hero was often teamed with Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop - something of a holy trinity. As said, uncle Nonto is a loafer and this game follows him through a series of disastrous attempts at holding down a job.


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Sugoroku. 子乗物双六 [Ko Norimono Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Seugaku Sophomore, Ist January, 1930 (Showa 5). Colour lithograph broadside, 54x78cm; Folded, a nice copy with the playing pieces intact in the left margin. Au$375

An exciting and vivid jaunt around the world and all forms of transport is the theme here. This was the New Year treat that came with the magazine Seugaku Sophomore (for the second year of primary school). I don't know who those two kids are but they never aged and, with updates in fashion and style, seem to have been on a ceaseless whirl of travel and adventure ever after. For decades new but the same sugorokus appeared. The zeppelin vanished of course, square automobiles became sleek cars, trains went diesel and electric and aeroplanes became jets, and on they went. Perhaps they learnt early what many idle wealthy globe trotters know: that a diet of fine demi-sec and pure cocaine keeps you young forever.


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Tsutsumi Kanzo. 漫画双六 世界早のぞき [Manga sugoroku sekai haya nozoki]. Nagoya(?), Shin Aichi 1931. Colour lithograph broadside, 55x70cm; Folded, a touch of nibbling on one edge. a nice copy with the playing pieces intact in the right margin. Au$750

Sugoroku, these paper racing games, like most genres of Japanese graphics range from the fabulous, through insipid to kitsch to awful to downright disturbing. This one is fabulous. Tsutsumi - one of the great pioneers of modern manga - takes two young aviators on quick world tour and shows them all the most important things. Curious, for me, is that each stop is not headed with the country name but some quality, some spectacle, some activity. Thus meeting Mussolini in Italy is titled 'hero'; for baseball we see see Babe Ruth knocking over a New York skyscraper; tennis is Henri Cochet in France; film is of course Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood; science is a zeppelin in Germany; war is Chiang Kai-shek in China; manners are learnt in England from Ramsay MacDonald; I'm not sure what the gymnastic penguins in the Antarctic represent. And so on round the globe with celebrity and national stereotypes galore.


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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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Okamoto Ippei. 漫画双六 [Manga Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Shufunotomosha 1929 (Showa 4). Broadside 64x94cm; colour printed. Folded, fairly minor signs of use. Au$650

A splendid large - on better paper than average at this time - and lively sugoroku - racing game - by the illustrator/cartoonist whose place in modern manga history is still being argued. Issued as a New Year supplement to the magazine The Housewife's Friend, the game is an intriguing melange, to me, of the modern and traditional, whether in conflict or harmony or all round mocked I don't know. The winning post - the joyful family of plump plutocrats with both husband and wife looking remarkably like lucky gods - is the dream of the modern young woman being hatched from an egg in the upper right but she is not the starting point of the game. There seems to be several starting points. Did any young western woman ever dream of being rich and fat? Okamoto Ippei began as a newspaper cartoonist for the Asahi Shimbun in 1912, travelled to the US in the twenties and brought back an enthusiasm for American comic strips which quickly spread through Japan. A prolific artist naturally, he has a long bibliography and much of it is found in scatterings in western libraries but I know of only one with a copy of this.


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Hayashi Tadaichi. 少年帝都復興双六 [Shonen Teito Fukko Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Nihon Shonen January 1924 (Taisho 13). Colour printed broadside 55x79cm. Folded, some small holes and tears repaired; a pretty good copy. Au$400

Have you seen a better piece of visionary urban planning? This sugoroku - racing game - accompanied the New Year issue of Nihon Shonen (Japanese Boy) and what better way to mark the new year than rebuilding the freshly devastated Tokyo along utopian lines? The title more or less translates as Boy's Reconstruction of the Imperial Capital and I'd move there in a flash. This has been thought out. Public transport is a marvel with canals, aerial cable cars and trains tearing round the city and on and off ferries; the airport is sensibly at flight level, which must save enormous amounts of fuel; I think the floating palace is an overnight shuttle to America. Public health and safety is well considered: the fire brigade operates from a tower with a water cannon that can reach across the city to extinguish fires and the hospital will come to you, no matter the terrain. Culture and sport are catered for and the traditional at heart will be comforted to see industry over on the wrong side of the tracks, well away from the houses on the hill, where it belongs. Two essential Tokyo survivors are the start and finish: Tokyo railway station and the imperial palace. I don't approve of the alarm on the clock tower but no-one can be unimpressed by the solar heating plant. Boy or not, this is the town for me.


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Nakazawa Hiromitsu, Kobayashi Shokichi & Okano Sakae. 東洋未来双六 [Toyo Mirai Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Hakubunkan 1907 (Meiji 40). Colour printed broadside, 55x78cm. Minor flaws and signs of use, some ink splodges on the back. Au$750

A view, or a panoply of views, of a future Asia. Some of these vignettes of what's to come are obvious enough - schoolgirls at rifle drill and sumo wrestlers in striped bathers - but a few seem fairly recondite to me. I'm not sure how much is optimistic, how much is dire warning and how much is wearily stoic. Nakazawa, Kobayashi and Okano, still young, had been fellow students at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, and of Kuroda Seiki, and collaborated on the five volume Nihon Meisho Shasei Kiko, issued over several years.


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Sugoroku. Kawabata Ryushi & Hoshino Suiri. 買い物双六 [Kaimono Sugoroku]. Tokyo, 1914 (Taisho 3). Colour printed broadside 79x55cm. Minor signs of use; a nice copy. Au$750

The New Year gift from the magazine Shojo no Tomo - the Girl's Friend. Shopping and fun, fun and shopping, indivisible here as it should be. There is a zen-like approach to this. The goal is the top balcony where the winner can gaze with calm detachment back and down on the world of the great department store. Only by immersing yourself in the experience can you come to comprehend. As the master who gave me the only coherent account of zen I ever heard said, as he bit the top off the eleventieth bottle of beer, "When you're drinking you're only drinking." Kawabata's career took a curious turn during a 1913 stay in America to study western painting. Apparently he was so impressed with the Japanese art he saw in Boston he switched to being a Nihonga painter. Still, he remained being an illustrator for magazines for quite some time. As did most of the early to mid 20th century artists now revered.


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Fire. Safety poster. Hokkaido Police. One of a series of fire safety posters produced by the Hokkaido Police. Hokkaido-cho Keisatsubu, 1918 (Taisho 7). Colour lithograph 79x54cm. A bit of browning, a short marginal tear and piece from one corner. Au$650

As a fan of safety posters I can tell you they are not known for subtlety, taste or elegance. I'm not sure whether the quite delicate style and colouring of these make them more or less chilling. In any case nothing could be more chilling than your sleeping infant burning while you gossip over tea. And not only is the baby barbequeing, it is Japan's most precious family treasure - a boy. On a value scale I'd say it goes boy then house then girl. All these posters are signed and sealed by the same artist but I'm unable to read it. Neither can I find an indication of how many were in the series.


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Sugoroku. 家庭教育世界一周すごろく [Katei Kyoiku Sekai Isshu Sugoroku]. Osaka Mainichi Shinbun, 1926 (Taisho 15). Colour printed broadside 109x80cm. Folded as issued; minor signs of use, a short tear repaired; not bad for a particularly large and vulnerable sugoroku. Au$350

You must have a smarter brain than me. I'm sure you do. It took me a few moments of slackjawed wonder before I realised this is a world map turned sideways and sat on. From where in space did the artist choose their viewpoint, unpeel the globe and spread it out flat? This a self titled educational game for the family. What does it teach us about our place on the planet and relationship to each other? Maybe that all maps are fiction. The Japanese flag flying in the Canadian Rockies marks the first ascent of Mount Alberta by the Japanese Alpine Club in 1925.


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Wakamoto. Sugoroku. わかもと - 漫画健康すご六 [Wakamoto - Manga Kenko Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Wakamoto [c1930]. Colour poster 63x46cm. Folded, a pretty good copy. Au$1150

An early bit of advertising from the health supplement makers and I don't think they've ever done better. The company started in 1929 in Shiba and opened a new plant in 1932; here the address is Shiba. This is a sugoroku, a racing game, and it's a succinct lesson in economics and industrialisation. The body as a machine had been explored by more than one graphic artist but here is not so much an intermediate step as a rational alternative. A production line may be useful but when labour is cheap why would you spend money on machinery? A decent length of sewage pipe, some vats and a manned treatment pond will do the job.


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Nakamura Fusetsu. 世界一周双六 [Sekai Isshu Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Asahi Shimbun 1910 (Meiji 47). Colour printed broadside 55x78cm. Folded as issued, mild browning and signs of use. With the playing pieces intact in the margins. Au$850

An elegant sugoroku - racing game - issued by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun to celebrate the 1910 Anglo-Japanese Exhibition in London. Nakamura was a star of the generation that studied western painting and went on to forge a new style of Japanese painting, enlivening magazine work and book illustration.


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Fire Safety Poster. 火防 - 秩父消防組 [Hifuse - Chichibu Shobogume]. Chichibu Fire Prevention Publicity Department [192-?]. Colour litho poster 39x27cm. Au$225

A good straightforward illustration of what a carefully applied match can do.


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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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Smoca Toothpowder Poster. タバコのみの歯磨スモカ [Tabako Nomi no Hamigaki Sumoka]. n.p. [c1930]. Colour poster 42x31cm. A hint of browning, a nice copy. Au$950

Not quite inexplicable but it would take a while to work out an explanation of this poster for Smoca Toothpowder. Samurai mask - sure, but why? Links to racist posters by manufacturers of whiteners of all kinds round the world? Indeed. But put it all together and ... you make sense of it. Smoca's success - they are still going - was through clever advertising. From the start, in 1925, the company's founder, advertising man Kataoka Toshiro, hired the best artists and cartoonists. Book compilations of Smoca's newspaper advertising have made regular appearances since the fifties.


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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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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. 海陸御固附 [Kairiku Okatame Tsuke]. [Tokyo? 1854 (Kaei 6)]. Woodcut broadside 41x62cm on two sheets joined in the middle. Folded, a small repair in the bottom margin, a couple of pin holes; a remarkably good copy. Au$2400

These illicit illustrated news sheets - kawaraban - for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plages, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban. Perry's ships in the bay and the defensive array of clans with tens or hundreds of thousands of troops along the shorelines was a popular kawaraban subject; this and one similar are the largest and busiest I've seen. The other version I've seen of this - titled Shinkoku Taihei Take Mori Mata Akira - is the same size, looks similar and features the American sailor in the corner, but is printed from different blocks with the ships in a different spot.


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Sugoroku. 輝く日本双六 [Kagayaku Nihon Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Seugaku Sophomore, Ist January, 1938 (Showa 13). Colour printed broadside 53x79cm, folded as issued. Minor signs of use, one short marginal tear; with the playing pieces intact in the margin. Au$350

The New Year treat from the magazine Seugaku Sophomore (for the second year of primary school) and come 1938 the fun is gone. Our globe trotting young couple from earlier sugoroku look frighteningly serene and the world, and war, and life, is no longer a riotous cartoon. When 'Shining Japan' - Kagayaku Nihon, the name of this game - became a motto for war in Asia I'm not sure. The Shining Japan Exposition - a military display no matter how many white doves fluttered over the battleships - was in 1936 and Japan was long a crusader fighting for Pan-Asian peace, liberated from colonialism. The name surfaces still, used by ultra nationalists in Japan.


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Hikifuda. 喫煙勸誘 [Kitsuen Kan'yu?]. Hikifuda - handbill - or poster. n.p. [190?-]. Colour lithograph 25x37cm. Minor signs of use, a couple of small professional repairs to the margin. Au$125

A lively and rowdy advertisement that has the look of a town meeting run by a plutocratic lucky god and attended by representatives of Japan throughout the ages. A livid Kintaro holds his axe with two bijin and a sumo wrestler just behind him. This advertises tobacco and I don't know what else. The largest characters say something about clothes and Karamono, which may be the tea implements. Perhaps someone literate can help.


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Meteorological Inspection. Peace! The sudden thunder and lightening ceased at all; and leaves the weather fair. Tokyo, Marumaru Chinbun 1889 (Meiji 27). Colour lithograph, 38x52cm. Folded, a bit rumpled and used. Au$60

An intriguing comment on something or another, issued as a supplement by the troublemaking journal Marumaru Chinbun. The Chinbun (strange news as opposed to shinbun - newspaper) began life as a satirical anti-government paper in 1877, was diluted through the eighties into social satire before giving up any troublesome tendencies after the death of founder Nomura Fumio in 1891. Exactly why the storm demon lashes the working people of Japan while the city folk of modern Tokyo continue fair may be explained or maybe you had to be there.


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