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Japanese illustration. Hanai Oume? Set of proof wood engraved illustrations for a Japanese serial story. n.p. n.d. [c 1887?] Oblong quarto by size (260x185mm ) contemporary plain wrapper; 41 wood engravings on 21 double folded leaves. A little browning. Au$475

A prime example of the strange casserole of Meiji Japan. In form, in technique, in content and in production these hold all the paradoxes of Japan embracing western modernisation while hanging fast to tradition. These are the illustrations for what seems a rollicking sword and sash thriller but ... it is set in a modern metropolis; bowler hats, suits and dashing mustachios are not out of place, neither is what looks like a railway station; and these are not ukiyo-e woodcuts for a popular novel, these are western wood engravings for a long serial - there are 41 after all - in a newspaper or broadsheet magazine; an illustration of such a paper helpfully holds a bough of blossoms in one illustration. The subject apart, the glaring difference between these and any western illustrations is the skill of artist and engraver, all but a few western counterparts are put to shame. I'm convinced that these relate to Hanai Oume the celebrated Tokyo geisha-teahouse owner who, in 1887, stabbed her sometime lover and employee who, apparently in concert with her father, was trying to muscle her out of the business. The first illustration here shows two men holding umbrellas that, I'm told, advertise a restaurant or 'licenced pleasure quarter' remarkably similar to hers: Suigetsu. Oume or O-ume - her professional name - was celebrity manifest. Her murder trial was public and though crowds unable to get in became irate every moment was covered in the press; books were published within minutes, kabuki plays and novels performed and published, and the newspapers made rich. Yoshitoshi produced a famous print of the murder as a supplement for the Yamato Shimbun but while there is plenty of violence in these pictures there is no murder. Spin-off or fanciful concoction, there's a good story here. There is an owner's (maybe artist's?) seal which I make out to be 春耕慢虫 - I'm sure I'm wrong.


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Yukawa Shodo. War Nurse from the series 今古風俗百美人 [Kinko Fuzoku Hyaku Bijin - 100 Beauties Past and Present]. [Osaka, Wakita Ainosuke?] c1903. Colour wood block print, 42x28cm. A little browning; with full margins. Au$375

Shodo's series is mostly dress up. He put his beauties into costume, gave them a prop or two, maybe a hint of background. And the majority are decorative and little more. But here and there are exceptions. A weaver hold us with her confident gaze, gripping her shuttle like a club, and a couple of his modern women are truly modern rather than mannequins put into trousers. A young student in hakama - men's wide trousers - reading while she leans against the window has the true defiant insouciance of a young woman going places and this nurse is nothing less than majestic with her implacable calm. This is a woman with a job to do. This is not a woman to be ordered about. Most but not all prints I've seen from this series have the red numbers in Arabic and Japanese at the top which don't relate to the print's place in the series. Is this that French invention - a numbered limited edition? I've seen numbers up to about 130. Some also have a caption in the bottom margin; those I've seen have been both numbered and unnumbered.


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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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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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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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Japanese 1920s graphic thriller. Preliminary sketches for a graphic story, probably for a magazine or pulp book. n.p. [192-?]. 23 sheets 22x15cm numbered to 21 with the last two (a bit smaller) unnumbered and two small paintings on red ribbon which don't seem to belong to the story but are of a piece with it. Two drawings to a page, all but a couple - pencil - in ink and wash. Au$450

Being illiterate doesn't stop me from recognising a timeless jazz age tale of crime, degradation, betrayal, forbidden lust and madness. This is clearly a good girl gone wrong story with a twist. Maybe more than one twist. The overt lesbian stuff was not that common in parallel western stories - book or film. This is pretty steamy stuff; in a tortured, fully dressed way. The drawings are signed but my translator can't decipher them. The accompanying text is mostly dialogue.


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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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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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Shinoda Senka & Utagawa Yoshiharu, 明治英名百詠撰 [Meiji Eimei Hyakueisen]. Tokyo, Murakami 1879? 18x12cm publisher's wrapper with title label; one double page and one full page colour woodcut, 120 half page woodcuts on 60 double folded leaves. Two clean tears across the paste down title page without loss, a well read copy but solid and decent enough. The illustrations, not so well printed, are by Utagawa Yoshiharu. Au$100

A popular, poetic, gallery of famous folk of the Meiji period - the first bit of it anyway. There are the expected statesmen and lords but there are also scholars, a handful of women and what look to to be unsavoury reprobates. Perhaps they are great statesmen. I'm equally ignorant about the verse with each portrait. I presume these aren't cheeky limericks or Clerihews.


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英和早学字引便覧 English, Japanesh, Small Dictionary; [Eiwa haya-gaku jibiki Binran]. Tokyo, Osaka? 1872 (Meiji 5). 16x6cm publisher's wrapper with title label; illustrated title in English on red paper, 30pp accordian folding, first page printed in blue. Owner's inscriptions on the covers. A pleasing copy, a most pleasing book. Au$300

Perfect for the narrowest pocket, or sleeve maybe. The explanatory Japanese with each of the 509 entries is tiny and clear. Osaka Women's University has a copy and that's all I could find anywhere. The NDL database lists it only on microfilm as part of a collection of English studies titles issued in the seventies.


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Shinoda Senka & Utagawa Yoshiharu, 明治英名百詠撰 [Meiji Eimei Hyakueisen]. Tokyo, Murakami 1879. 18x12cm publisher's wrapper with title label; one double page, one full page colour woodcut, 120 half page woodcuts - all but a couple coloured - on 60 double folded leaves. Inscription on the back cover; a nice copy. The illustrations are by Utagawa Yoshiharu. Au$400

First edition and a deluxe coloured copy of this popular, poetic, gallery of famous folk of the Meiji period - the first bit of it anyway. There are the expected statesmen and lords but there are also scholars, a handful of women and what look to to be unsavoury reprobates. Perhaps they are great statesmen. I'm equally ignorant about the verse with each portrait. I presume these aren't cheeky limericks or Clerihews. I don't know how rare coloured copies are but I haven't found another amongst the recorded copies.


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