Fukazawa Sakuichi (深沢索一 1896-1947) was born in Niigata prefecture. Soon after his family moved to Tokyo, he attended Tokyo Central School of Commerce and Industry. From around 1918 he began studying woodblock printing with the help of Suwa Kanenori and by 1922 he was exhibiting at the Nihon Sôsaku Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Creative Print Association: 日本創作版画協会), as well as contributing to coterie magazines, especially Minato (港 "Harbor," 1926-1927) and its successor Kaze (風 "Wind," 1927-28). He was a founding member of the Nihon Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Print Association: 日本洋画協会) in 1931 and an associate on the magazine Han (版 "Print," 1928-29) with Hiratsuka Un'ichi, Azechi Umetarô, and Munakata Shikô.
Although he designed book covers bound in Western style as early as 1924, from around 1936 Fukazawa began to focus more on such work. He is also recorded as a block cutter for moku-hanga (block print: 木版画) illustrations. Even so, he continued producing sôsaku hanga (creative prints: 創作版画) during the Second World War and up until his death. His work was also included in the 1947 Nihon Hanga Kyôkai (Association of Sôsaku Hanga Artists: 日本洋画協会) group exhibition. According to Onchi Kôshirô2, Fukazawa's graphic style was somewhat abbreviated. His cutting and printing technique, was unusually soft, shallow, and smooth.
Fukazawa contributed 13 designs to the Shin Tokyo hyakkei (One hundred views of New Tokyo: 新東京百景), and it is these compostions that are the most familiar works by Fukazawa today. The series was published from 1928 to 1932 on a subscription basis by the Takujô group through Nakajima Jûtarô of the Sôsaku Hanga Club. All the artists represented in the series were members of Nihon Sôsaku Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Creative Print Association, est. 1918) as well as founding members of Nihon Hanga Kyôkai (1931).
For more about this artist, see the Fukuzawa Sakuichi Biography.
Meiji Jingû Yakyôjô (Meiji Jingu Stadium: 明治神宮野球場), the second oldest baseball stadium in Japan (it opened in 1926), is located in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It is one of the few professional stadiums still in existence where Babe Ruth played (with other baseball greats, such as Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Gomez, Earl Averill, Charlie Gehringer, and Lou Gehrig, in 1934). Today, Meiji Jingu Stadium, home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows professional baseball team in the Central League, is owned by one of the biggest shrines in Japan, Meiji Jingu, and located in Meiji Jingu Shrine's Outer Garden. There are also several sporting arenas including Japan's largest National Stadium and Rugby Football Stadium.
Fukazawa's design of the Meiji baseball stadium is numbered "3" (三) in the lower left margin, indicating that it is from the third set of the published series of 50 sets. The Meiji Jungu print is design no. 86 from the series.
The Tôkyô roku daigaku yakyû renmei (Tokyo Big Six League: 東京六大学野球連盟) was established in 1925, formed to host intercollegiate tournaments for teams from Tokyo's six oldest and most prestigious private universities. Before the establishment of the Nippon yakyû kikou (Nippon Professional Baseball league: 日本野球機構), the Tokyo Bix Six League represented the highest level of competition for the sport in Japan.
In Fukazawa's print, the view through the protective netting is unexpected, although it is perhaps partly inspired by Utagawa Hiroshige's unusual vantage points in his Meisho Edo hyakkei (100 Views of Edo: 名所江戸百景) series from 1856-59. The home-plate umpire, by raising his left arm, seems to be calling a strike. This is indeed an unusual composition for Fukagawa where the intentionally obstructed view brings to life the experience of attending an early game of baseball while seated high up behind home plate. Near two of the balloons on the right are the Japanese characters for Ragubï (Rugby: ラグビー) and Supôtsu (Sports: スポーツ).
Pre-WWII woodblock prints of baseball games are much sought-after and rarely available. The print is accompanied by the original presentation folder (see image at right).
- Onchi, Koshiro, "The Modern Japanese Print: An Internal History of the Sosaku Hanga Movement," trans. U. Osamu and C. H. Mitchell, in: Ukiyo-e geijutsu, no. 11, 1965, p. 24.
- James Austin: Ukiyo-e Art A Journal of the Japan Ukiyo-e Society, No. 14, 1966.
- Merritt and Yamada: Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints, 1900-1975. University of Hawaii Press, 1992, pp. 267-270.
- Uhlenbeck, Chris, Newland, Amy, and de Vries, Maureen: Waves of renewal. modern Japanese prints 1900 to 1960. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2016, pp. 54, nos. 214-216.