Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)‎ > ‎

Kiyochika's Views of the Famous Sights of Japan (Nihon meishō zue)

Kiyochika's Views of the Famous Sights of Japan
(Nihon meishō zue 日本名勝図会)

Prints in Collection

Lake Chuzenji

IHL Cat. #117 

-intentionally left blank-

-intentionally left blank-

-intentionally left blank-

About the Series – Views of Famous Sights of Japan

Source: Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 104-106
In November 1896, Kiyochika began a new series of landscape prints depicting scenic spots throughout Japan.  With the exception of the Tokyo triptychs issued earlier the same year, it was his first sustained effort at landscape since the One Hundred Views of Musashi of 1884-1885.  The publisher was Matsuki Heikichi V whose father had launched Kiyochika’s career twenty years earlier but whose firm had not published any of Kiyochika’s landscape work since the Shizuoka views of 1880-1881.

Entitled Views of Famous Sights of Japan (Nihon meishō zue 日本名勝図会), the series continued for six months, through April 1897, reaching a total of twenty-eight prints.  As with the One Hundred Views of Musashi, the format is vertical; but the layout is less contrived, with the title in a red cartouche at the top and the artist’s signature in a simple unframed cursive characters within the print.  Adjoining the title cartouche on each print is a box of text describing the place depicted; in the latter part of the series, each such text concludes with a haiku signed “Senshu” – presumably a contemporary poet.1 

The term “famous sight” (meishō) in the title of this series is close in meaning to “famous place” (meisho), but it carries a stronger sense of scenic beauty.  “Famous place” is the older of the two terms, emerging first in poetry to designate specific sights that were known as much for literary and historical associations as for the beauty of the landscape.  In time, painters came to illustrate these places celebrated in verse, although rarely with any concern for the actual appearance of the places, which they may never have seen.  For Kiyochika, however, the ”sight” was fully as important as the “place.”

One persisting characteristic of Kiyochika’s landscape art was his reliance, where possible, on his own watercolor sketches of the actual sites.  In Views of the Famous Sights of Japan, for example, the distribution of the twenty-eight places betrays a predictable bias in favor of those that the artist had visited.  Eighteen are in the immediate Kanto area around Tokyo (although only one within the city itself), and of the remainder, six are in the Kansai region and four are scattered more widely, from Matsushima in the north to Hiroshima and Kyushu in the west.

For some of the more distant locations, Kiyochika may have relied on photographs, but for those in the Kanto region he must have worked from his own sketches.  The actual sketch models survive for four prints in the series, all of them landscapes of the Nikko area in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo.  The sketchbook models are dated to the day of the month, ranging from June 2 to June 6, 1880.  They are immediately followed, however, by sketches in a similar style that are dated from November 1890 to January 1891, strongly suggesting that he recopied the original Nikko sketches over a decade later.  The generally more finished nature of these watercolor models further supports the hypotheses of later recopying.

1 The poems appear on all prints from #17 on (possibly including #16).

The Twenty-Eight Prints in the Series

Satta Pass, No. 1
November 1, 1896 
Monkey Bridge, No. 2
November 1, 1896
Itsukushima Shrine, No. 3
November 1, 1896
The Wedded Rocks, No. 10
November 1, 1896

Yumoto Hot Spring, Nikko, No. 11
November 1, 1896

Enoshima, No. 4
November 5, 1896

Matsushima, No. 5
November 5, 1896

Tsūten Bridge, No. 6
November 5, 1896

Koganei, No. 7
November 1896

Waterfall Urami-no-taki, unread print number
November 1896

Kiyomigata, unread print number
November 1896
Yōrō Falls, No. 12
December 1896

Yokosuka Shipyard, No. 13
December 1896
Shinkyō Bridge, No. 14
January 1897
Arashiyama, No. 15
January 1897

 Narita-san Shinshōji Temple, No. 16
January 1897

Cape Kannon, No. 18 [marked "81" on print]
February 1897

February 1897

Inner Valley at Tsukigase, not numbered
February 1897

Yōmei Gate, No. 19
March 1897

Tsukuba Mountain Seen from Sakura River at Hitachi, No. 20
March 1897
Lake Chuzenji, No. 21
March 1897

Sumida River, No. 23
April 1897

Oyashirazu hama, No. 24
April 1897 

Atami Hot Spring, not numbered
April 1897

Mount Yoshino, not numbered
April 1897
KagamigauraBōshū Province, not numbered
Bungo [province] Yabakei ko Rakan-ji, not numbered

A List of the Twenty-Eight Prints in the Series

Source: Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 104-105.
The sequence in which the prints were issued is indicated by a number below the publication information in the left, and on a few prints the right, margin.  Some impressions are missing these numbers, and those after #24 may never have been assigned them.  In at least two cases, including no. 17, the two digits of the number have been accidentally transposed.

Margin Publication Information
click image to enlarge

Print No.

Title and Date

Satta Pass on the Tokaido, 1896, 11th month
Monkey Bridge, 1896, November
Itsukushima Shrine, 1896, November
The Island Enoshima, 1896, September
Pine Islands (Matsushima), 1896, November 11
Tsuten Bridge (Tsūtenkiyō), 1896, November 5
Koganei, Cherry Blossoms, 1896, November
Futamigaura, the Wedded Rocks, 1896, November 1
The Yumoto Sulfur Spring, Nikko, 1896, November
Yōrō Falls (Yōrō no bakufu), 1896, December
Yokosuka Shipyard, 1896
Shinkyo, Sacred Bridge at Nikko, 1897, January
Arashiyama, Kyoto, 1897, January   
Shinso Temple, 1897, January
Tagonoura, near Fuji, 1897, February
Cape Kannon (Kannon misaki), 1897, February
Inner Valley at Tsukigase, 1897, February
Tsukuba Mountain Seen from Sakura River at Hitachi, 1897, March
Lake Chuzenji, 1897, March
Sumida River, 1897, April
Yomeimon Gate at Nikko Toshogu Shrine, 1897, March
Urami Waterfall (Urami no taki), 1896, November
View of Fuji from the Coast of Kiyomigata, 1896, 11th month
Mt. Yoshino, Cherry Blossoms, 1897, April
Korakanji Temple at Yabakei
Yokosuka Shipyard, 1896
Mirror Bay (Kagami-ga-ura), 1897, April
Atami Hot Spring, 1897, April
"?" indicates a partially indecipherable number
* no number appears on the impressions of this print I've seen, including the one in this Collection.  However, Smith identifies the print as number 19.