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Archive: Isshûsai KUNIKAZU (一珠齋國員)

Tenjin Matsuri yûkei ("Evening View of the Tenjin Festival") from the series Naniwa hyakkei ("One Hundred Views of Osaka": 浪花百景)
Kunikazu ga
No artist seal
Circa late 1850s - early 1860s
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e
24.5 x 17.8 cm
Very good
Very good color and overall condition (mica, now darkened, in the smoke; lightly backed, small repaired wormhole to right of large barge in background)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: KKZ07


The landscape tradition as an independent genre was never firmly established in Kamigata printmaking as it had been in Edo, although Osaka artists frequently included abbreviated landscapes as minor motifs in their actor-print designs. Nevertheless, Kunikazu and a few other late-period Osaka artists designed several series of landscape prints (fûkei-ga) in a style influenced by Hiroshige.

In the Tokugawa period, the Tenjin Matsuri (Heavenly Deity Festival: 天神祭り) was celebrated on the 25th day of the sixth month in Osaka (today it takes place on July 25). Tenjin Matsuri is one of the three great festivals of Japan (along with Kyoto's Gion (祇園) Festival and Edo/Tokyo's Kanda [Sannô: 山王] Festival. The festivities take place at Osaka's Tenmangû Shrine, built during the Tenryaku Era (947-957) by imperial order of the Emperor Murakami (926-967) in an attempt to appease the angry spirit of the scholar, poet, calligrapher, and politician Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真; also Kan Shôjô, 菅丞相: 845-903). Michizane had been demoted from his ministerial position by the rival Fujiwara and died in exile in Kyûshû, whereupon plague and drought soon spread across the land. Michizane was posthumously restored to his title and then deified in 986.


Kunikazu's Tenjin Matsuri yûkei (Evening View of the Tenjin Festival: 天神祭り夕景) depicts a procession of river boats from the Dôjima to the Okawa river. A barge or floating platform features a stage where traditional Japanese court dances, folk entertainments, and geiko (dancing girls or young geisha) dances are performed to the accompaniment of sacred Kagura and Dôgaku music. During the heyday of Tokugawa-period Osaka, more than 70 festival danjiri (floats: 地車) would be carried along the embankment as onlookers watched the pageant move along a riverscape punctuated by red lanterns. The huge clouds of billowing smoke seen here are from festival fires on the boats and fireworks.

References: NHT, no. 14; HSK, no. 264