Every month a member of our Society will show one of his or her favourite Japanese artworks. The second Member’s Pick (until 9 January 2021) is a beautiful and colourful print from the collection of our board member Christiaan Kamstra.
"We bought this print in 2008 in Kyoto while on our honeymoon in Japan. First of all, I think it is beautiful, I still enjoy it immensely when looking at it. What I also like about it are the deep links it contains to Japanese culture.
The kimono is the obvious eyecatcher and is a quintessential Japanese piece of clothing. But if you look closely, you realise the person depicted is not a person at all, but a doll! It is a doll from the traditional Japanese puppet theatre bunraku. This hundreds of years old Japanese art form is a puppet theatre with lifelike and sophisticated puppets that can move very realistically.
The girl depicted is Yaoya Oshichi, the 16 year old daughter of a greengrocer whose family temporarily lived in a temple after a fire burned down their house. At the temple, Oshichi fell in love with a boy. Once their house had been rebuilt, the family had to move out of the temple. The desperate Oshichi tried to burn down their new house, as she hoped to be reunited with him. Tragically she got caught and was burned at the stake, as arson was a capital offense. The historical tale of Oshichi was later adapted for the puppet theatre as Date Musume Koi no Higanoko and was very popular. In fact in the kabuki version of the piece the actors actually moved like dolls during the climax of the play."
As you can see, this print offers an interesting and surprisingly deep view into Japanese culture.
Hideki Hanafusa (1914 - ?), Oban-size, From the series ‘Woodblock Collection of Bunraku Puppets’, Published by Maria Shobo in 1963. The series features 24 designs by Konobu Hasegawa and Hideki Hanafusa.