Picture of the War in Kagoshima
By Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
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Medium: woodcut/woodblock/ukiyo-e, woodblock
Edition size: n/a
Sheet size: 37.3 by 74.8 cm
Price: $2400 (excl. taxes)
signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu, with Yoshitoshi's address seal (14 Minami Kinroku-cho) on left sheet, and publisher's seal with address on right sheet, shuppanjin Okura Magobei (Yorozuya Magobei of Kineido), with combined censor and date seal Tatsu-go, aratame (year of the dragon , 5th lunar month, examined), re-dated in the descriptive cartouche to Meiji junen nigatsu nijuichika (Meiji 10 , February 21)
oban tate-e triptych 14 5/8 by 29 1/2 in., 37.3 by 74.8 cm
This composition provides insight into the complexities of publishing war prints in the shifting political landscape in the early Meiji Period. The design was originally published in the 5th lunar month of 1868 under the title The Battle of Yuki from the Chronicles of Nobunaga (Nobunaga-ki). The title itself is an anachronism to Official Records of Nobunaga (title can be read as Nobunaga koki or Shincho-koki), the diary of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) from 1568 until his death in 1582. The Nobunaga referred to in Yoshitoshi's triptych, however, is Takeda Nobunaga (died. c. 1477) who fought on the side of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshinori in the Battle of Yuki of 1440. Furthermore, there are several clues indicating that while the subject in the title was a medieval amalgam, the battle scene visually refers to the ongoing Boshin War (1868-1869). While the soldiers to the left wear traditional armor that could date to a much earlier era, the soldiers on the right wear jingasa (war helmets) common in the 19th century and are being led by a figure wearing the wild red wig-type headgear known as shaguma (lit. 'red bear') which were worn by officers of the Tosa domain fighting on behalf of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912). In the foreground a fallen solder has dropped a brass bugle. As in an 1866 six-panel print which references a 16th-century battle to discreetly illustrate the Choshu Excursion of 1866, Yoshitoshi and the publisher of the 1868 version of this design likely utilized the imagery of Japan's medieval wars of unification to disguise a depiction of the Boshin conflict.
While the 1868 print lacks a publisher seal, the design was adapted by the publisher Yorozuya Magobei (active 1865-1919) to reflect another modern conflict. This version has a new title, Picture of the War of Kagoshima (Kagoshima senso no zu), a new lengthy descriptive panel dated 1877, and new cartouches identifying specific figures from the Satsuma Rebellion. The figures on the right and center are the rebel officers Saigo Kohei (1847-1877) and Shinohara Kunimoto (1837-1877) fighting against Imperial forces from nearby Kumamoto (identified as Kumamoto chindai, roughly translating to 'Kumamoto military garrison'). Both died in the rebellion.
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 39