World Without Walls: Kuwagata Keisai’s Panoramic Vision of Japan

  • Henry D. SmithII
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series (STANTS)


The title of Donald Keene’s survey of Tokugawa literature capsulises our dominant image of the Edo period as a ‘world within walls’.1 The intent was of course to indicate Japan’s isolation from other nations, but the same phrase may be extended to encompass the pervasive image of early modern Japan as rigidly compartmentalised into a multiplicity of smaller ‘worlds’, whether the ‘four classes’ of society, the miscellaneous ‘genres’ of literature or the hereditary ‘schools’ of learning and the arts.


Border Zone Early Nineteenth Century Entire City Lightning Flash Boso Peninsula 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Donald Keene, World Within Walls — Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600–1867 (New York, Grove Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  2. Professor Keene is also the author of a pioneering book on precisely my counter-theme of ‘world without walls’: The Japanese Discovery of Europe, 1720–1830 (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Figure 1.1 represents a fine impression, in excellent condition, of what I believe to be the first state of this print, preserved in its original wrapper in the Mitsui Bunko in Tokyo, call no. c750–12. This state may be distinguished from others by the fine line carved from the blue colour block to indicate the horizon below Korea. A common later state has completely different colour blocks, resulting in heavier overprinting on the mountain peaks, no horizon line below Korea and a differently placed moon; for an example (from the Kobe City Museum) see Hugh Cortazzi, Isles of Gold: Antique Maps of Japan (New York and Tokyo: John Weatherhill, 1983) pl. 60 and endcover insert.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    The most thorough biographical investigation of Keisai is in Tanaka Tatsuya, ‘Bungs no gaha, Kitao-ha’, in Nikuhitsu ukiyoe (Shieisha, 1983), v. 133–7, 143, 146.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    The term ‘uki-e’ seems to have first appeared on prints of theatre interiors by Masanobu and Kiyotada in about 1739–40; the meaning was later described as referring to the visual effects of looking at such views through a lens, although there is no evidence that the first uki-e were so intended. For the origins and development of the genre see Suzuki Jūzō ‘Uki-e no tenkai to henbō’, in Riccar Bijutsukan, Uki-e (exhibition catalogue, 1975)Google Scholar
  6. and Julian Jinn Lee, ‘The Origin and Development of Japanese Landscape Prints: A Study in the Synthesis of Eastern and Western Art’, unpublished Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1977.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    For Ōkyo’s views for the optique see Kubota Beisen, ‘Maruyama Ōkyo hitsu no megane-e’, Kottō kyōkai zasshi (1899) pp. 39–41; Lee, ‘The Origin and Development of Japanese Landscape Prints’, op. cit. ch. 5;Google Scholar
  8. and Kōbe Shiritsu Hakubutsukan, Megane-e to Tōkaidō gojūsan-tsugi ten (exhibition catalogue, 1984).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Oka Yasumasa, ‘Maruyama bkyo no megane-e to Utagawa Toyoharu no uki-e ni tsuite’, Kansai Daigaku Kōkogaku-t5 shiryōshitsu kiyb, no. 1 (March 1984) pp. 47–78.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    This painting is illustrated (but mis-identified as a view of Ryōgoku) in Ota Kinen Bijutsukan, Kōnoike korekushon Ogi-e zuroku 1: Ukiyo-e hen (Ota kinen bijutsukan, 1981) fig. 18, and in colour in Kobijutsu, no. 75 (July 1985) p. 29. I am grateful to Timothy Clark of Harvard University for bringing this painting to my attention.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Kano Hiroyuki, ‘Kuwagata Keisai ehon no kentō’, Museum, no. 338 (May 1979) p. 23, claims that this drawing was taken from Kōmō zatsuwa; in fact it is of a different type and must have come from some other source.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Edo hon ya shuppan kiroku, iii(Yumani shobō, 1980) pp. 440–1. The first to draw attention to this source appears to have been Iwata Toyoki, ‘Edo jidai no chōkanzu’, Gekkan kochizu kenkyū, no. 12 (February 1971) P. 7.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    For a collection of important essays on the evolution of urban views and bird’s-eye views in Japan see Yamori Kazuhiko, Kochizu to fukei (Chikuma shobō, 1984).Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Saitō Gesshin, Bukō nenpyō, entry for 3/21/1828’ see Kaneko Mitsuharu (ed.), Zbtei Buk5 nenpyō, Tōyō bunko 117–18 (Heibonsha, 1968), ii, 734. Gesshin included the same allegation in his revision of the Ukiyo-e ruikb. The word ‘ichiranzu’ in the title of Kazan’s view (as printed on the wrapper in which it was sold) may well have been used here for the first time, and corresponds fairly well to the English ‘bird’s-eye view’ (for which the earliest OED citation is 1762–71).Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Masamune Isoo and Wakabayashi Shōji (eds), Kinsei Kyōto shuppan shiryb (Nihon kosho tsüshinsha, 1965) p. 21; I am indebted for the reference to Iwata, ‘Edo jidai no chōkanzu’, p. 7.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    bkyo’s view of Kyoto is introduced in Cal French, Through Closed Doors: Western Influence on Japanese Art 1639–1853 (Rochester, Mich.: Meadow Brook Art Gallery, Oakland University, 1977), entry 45 (pp. 109–11).Google Scholar
  17. For the date on the box see Ikenaga Hajime, Shiritsu Kobe bijutsukan shūz5 Nanban bijutsu sbmokuroku (Kobe: Shiritsu Kōbe bijutsukan, 1955) p. 187.Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    Sasaki Jōhei, ‘Maruyama bkyo no sansuiga ni tsuite’, Bijutsushi, no. 120 (April 1986) pp. 113–31.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    bkyo also painted a similar view of Osaka, now in the collection of Nanba Shōtarō; see Edo jidai zushi, vol. xviii (Chikuma shob6, 1978) fig. 4. A view of Nagasaki harbour in the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum is signed by bkyo and dated 1792, but its authenticity is in doubt; see fig. 6, Hosono Masanobu, ‘Y6fn hanga’, Nihon no bijutsu, no. 36 (Shibundō, 1969), translated as Nagasaki Prints and Early Copperplates (Kodansha International and Shibundo, 1978).Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    Louise Norton Brown, Block Printing and Book Illustration in Japan (London: George Routledge & Sons Ltd, and New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1924) p. 123. Brown asserts that Masayoshi visited Kyoto ‘about 1786’, apparently on the assumption that the designs in Ehon Miyako no nishiki (1787) were based on first-hand experience, when in fact they were adapted from Miyako meisho zue. Her reconstruction of Keisai’s contact with bkyo through the kyōka volume Haikaika Miyako manshu (which she mis-reads as ‘Haikai Kato Manshu’) is also suspect, since surviving editions of this work make it clear that the illustrations were by the ‘late’ (not ‘old age’) bkyo himself rather than Keisai, and that the preface is not by Shinra Banshō but by Shinratei II; the date of the preface (ne hazuki) must be, given the circumstances described, the Eighth Month of 1804. Brown’s assertions (and errors) are all repeated byGoogle Scholar
  21. Nakada Katsunosuke, Ehon no kenkyb (Bijutsu shuppansha, 1950) p. 96.Google Scholar
  22. 29.
    The commentary on this print in Nakamura Hiroshi (ed.), Nihon kochizu taisei (Kodansha, 1964) pl. 77, identifies this as a setting sun, which seems unlikely.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    This painting is now mounted as a screen, in the collection of the Tsuyama shiritsu kyōdokan; for a good reproduction see Suwa Haruo and Naitō Akira, Edo zu bybbu (Mainichi shinbunsha, 1972) pl. 107, where it is called ‘Edo keikan zu byōbu’. Still another painted version of the Edo panorama survives in the Japan Ukiyoe Museum Collection in Matsumoto, reproduced in Nihon Ukiyo-e Hakubutsukan, Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e senshū (Gakken, 1986) pl. 116. It is signed in a style identical to that of the printed version, but the composition is different. It is undated, but I would guess that it came after the print, in response to a request for a painted version. Finally, a large painting of presumably the same view hung for many years in the Ema Hall of Kanda Myōjin Shrine and was finally destroyed in the Kanto Earthquake of 1923; see Kaneko (ed.), Zōtei Bukō nenpyō ii, 74;Google Scholar
  24. Mori Senzō, ‘Kuwagata Keisai no kotodomo’, Gasetsu, no. 33 (1939) pp. 829–30;Google Scholar
  25. and Mimura Seisaburō, ‘Keisai ni kanshite’, Gasetsu, no. 33 (1939) p. 838 (which however mistakes Keisai’s painting for a separate one of the shrine festival procession).Google Scholar
  26. 31.
    Among the many later panoramas of Edo which are modelled after the original Keisai view are: a copperplate etching by Aodo Denzen, before 1815 (see Hosono, op. cit. fig. 103); an eightfold screen by ukiyo-e painter Shuntoku, now lost (Narazaki Muneshige, ‘Shuntoku kenkyfi no zenshin tash6’, Ukiyoe-kai, 4/1 [January 1939] pp. 35–6);Google Scholar
  27. a copperplate etching by an unknown European illustrator in Siebold’s Nippon, 1832–51 (ii, 39); a crude ukiyo-e print by Kunimori, 1843–6; a careful copy of Keisai’s original by his grandson Keirin, after 1854 (see, for example, Chikuma shobō, Edo jidai zushi, suppl. vol. 2, pp. 104–5Google Scholar
  28. and Mildred Friedman (ed.) Tokyo: Form and Spirit [Walker Art Museum, 1986] p. 33); and a sugoroku board-game print by Hiroshige II, 1859Google Scholar
  29. see, for example, Shinji Yoshimoto (ed.), ‘Edo happyaku yach6’, Nihon no kochizu, vol. ix [Kōdansha, 1977] p. 1, and facsimile reproduction inGoogle Scholar
  30. Iwata Toyoki (ed.), O-Edo ezu shūsei [Kōdansha, 1974]).Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    Sasaki Jōhei, ‘Maruyama bkyo no kaigaron’ (Kyōto daigaku bungakubu bigaku-bijutsushigaku kenkyfishitsu) Kenkyū kiyb, no. 3 (1982) pp. 7, 13.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    Sait6 Gesshin, Edo meisho zue, v (1836), s.v. ‘Kanda Daimyōjin no yashiro’. A depiction of the same large telescope appears in Keisai’s Edo meisho zue of 1785.Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    For the complex character of Sadanobu himself see Haruko Iwasaki, ‘Portrait of a Daimyo - Comical Fiction by Matsudaira Sadanobu’, Monumenta Nipponica, 38/1 (Spring 1983) pp. 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 36.
    For Bunchō’s Izu paintings see Tani Bunchō, Koyo tanshōzu (Meicho shuppan, 1975), kaisetsu by Hosono Masanobu.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    Denzen himself produced a panoramic view of Edo; as cited in note 33, I believe that Denzen followed Keisai, although the reverse possibility has been considered (but finally discounted) in Unno Kazutaka, ‘Edo chōkanzu no sōshisha’, Gekkan kochizu kenkyū, 8/9 (June, 1970) pp. 211.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    Shokunin-zukushi ekotoba’, 3 painted handscrolls, Tokyo National Museum; see Asakura Haruhiko (ed.), Edo shokunin-zukushi (Iwasaki bijutsu sha, 1980) for a half-tone reproduction.Google Scholar
  37. 40.
    Haga Tōru, ‘The Western World and Japan in the Eighteenth Century’, Hikaku bunka kenkyū (Tokyo daigaku kyOyō gakubu) no. 16 (March 1978) p. 22. I have provided my own translation of the poem.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gail Lee Bernstein and Haruhiro Fukui 1988

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  • Henry D. SmithII

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