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Illustration of the Yamashiro Tea Company

Picture of the Occupation of the Taku Forts and the Hard Fight of Navy Lt. Colonel Hattori

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Illustration of the Yamashiro Tea Company

by unknown artist, c. 1890-1895

S. Watanabe Woodcut Print Shop

IHL Cat. #2421

About This Print

A rather large print promoting the Yamashiro Tea Company formed in 18851, during a boom in the export tea trade, by Itō Kumao 伊東熊夫 (1849-1913) who was a driving force in modernizing Japan's tea industry.  This print depicts their tea plantation and curing and packing facilities in Uji, Kyoto Province, situated on the banks of the Lake Biwa Canal, completed in 1890, along with a stone monument erected in Manpukuji Temple in Uji in 1887 dedicated to tea culture. 

Uji, of course, is noted for its high quality tea with its distinctive umami, much favored by shoguns and the Imperial Family since the 14th century.

Workers harvest tea in Uji,  YamashiroProvince, c. 1880s
Hand-colored albumen photograph

It is clear that the English script on the bottom of the print describing the four sections of the illustration were written by a native English speaker, as they are grammatically perfect. The English-language script on this print is not surprising given that almost half the tea exports from Japan during that period went to the United States.

The tea industry was subject to greatly fluctuating prices and it is likely the Yamashiro Tea Company failed by the mid-1890s. Itō would become the Vice President of the Japan Tea Association and continue his work to increase Japan's exports of tea to the West, as we see in the below appeal to "dealers in foreign countries" appearing in the January 1903 issue of the journal Japan and America.2 

1 There is scant information on the Yamashiro Tea Company, but brief mentions can be found in period issues of The Japan Daily Mail (e.g. Vol. 14, 1890), and in the archives of the Kyoto Art Repository https://kyoto-art.repo.nii.ac.jp/ "Kyoto University of Art and Design Bulletin [GENESIS]" No.23 京都造形芸術大学 紀要GENESIS]第23号. 

2 Japan and America, Vol. III, No. 1, January 1903, Hajime Hoshi, NY, p. 12.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description
 Illustration of the Yamashiro Tea Company
 Artist Unknown
 Signature unsigned
 Seal not sealed
 Publication Date not dated, likely sometime between 1890 and 1895
 Publisher unknown, but commissioned by the Yamashiro Tea Company
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - folded in quarters; separation along horizontal fold
 Format dai-oban
 H x W Paper 
 13 5/8 x  17 7/8 in. (34.6 x 45.4 cm)
 H x W Image 13 1/8 x 17 1/4 in. (33.3 x 43.8 cm)
 Collections This Print
last revision:
2/4/2021 created