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Anatomical illustrations from Edo-period Japan

13 Oct 2010

Here is a selection of old anatomical illustrations that provide a unique perspective on the evolution of medical knowledge in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). Pregnancy illustrations, circa 1860 These pregnancy illustrations are from a copy of Ishinhō, the oldest existing medical book in Japan. Originally written by Yasuyori Tanba in 982 A.D., the […]

Edo-period monster paintings by Sawaki Suushi

18 Feb 2008

In the sophisticated popular culture of the Edo period (1603-1868), much attention was devoted to Japan's rich pantheon of traditional monsters and apparitions, known as yokai. Sometimes frightening, sometimes humorous, these compelling Japanese folk creatures were the subject of numerous artistic and literary works. One such work was Hyakkai Zukan, a collection of picture scrolls […]

Edo-period kappa sketches

02 Mar 2007

Kappa, arguably Japan's most well-known creature of legend, are mischievous river imps notorious for luring people -- particularly children -- into the water to drown and eat them. They smell like fish, enjoy cucumbers and sumo, and are said to be very courteous despite their malicious tendencies. Although kappa are typically about the size of […]

Edo-period illustrations by Kurimoto Tanshuu

21 Dec 2006

Kurimoto Tanshuu (1756 - 1834) sketched wildlife during the Edo period. Check out the National Diet Library links below for more of his fantastic illustrations. - Senchuufu: 275 pages of creepy crawlies (3 volumes) - Tako-kurage-ika rui zumaki: 16 images of octopi, jellyfish and squid - Igyozusan: 10 images of unusual fish (folding scroll) - […]

Edo-period UFO

07 Sep 2006

The Iwase Bunko Library has in its possession a document entitled Hyouryuukishuu ("Tales of Castaways"), which was printed during the late Edo period (1603-1868). The document recounts the stories of Japanese sailors who find themselves in foreign lands after becoming lost at sea, as well as castaway foreigners washed ashore on the beaches of Japan. […]

Edo-period “robot” returns to life in Japan

30 Jan 2006

In a reference to Doraemon, Japan's most famous animated robotic cat, a Chinese person once remarked: "Lazy is the person who relies on robots in times of need." Though there may be some truth to the statement, it ignores Japan's long-held notion that robots (and their animated counterparts, such as Doraemon and Astro Boy) exist […]

Namazu-e: Earthquake catfish prints

06 Apr 2011

In November 1855, the Great Ansei Earthquake struck the city of Edo (now Tokyo), claiming 7,000 lives and inflicting widespread damage. Within days, a new type of color woodblock print known as namazu-e (lit. "catfish pictures") became popular among the residents of the shaken city. These prints featured depictions of mythical giant catfish (namazu) who, […]

Decorated gas tanks

10 Mar 2011

Local gas companies occasionally add a touch of character to the giant spherical gas containers that dot the landscape of Japan. Here are a few examples. Nicotan (mascot of Shibata Gas) -- Shibata, Niigata prefecture [via] Watermelon -- Tomisato, Chiba prefecture [via] Hikari-chan and Gatto-kun -- Niigata [via] Zen monk-poet Ryōkan -- Tsubame, Niigata prefecture […]

Monsters from the Kaibutsu Ehon

03 Mar 2011

The Kaibutsu Ehon ("Illustrated Book of Monsters") is an 1881 book featuring woodblock prints of yōkai, or creatures from Japanese folklore. Illustrated by painter Nabeta Gyokuei, the book is modeled after the influential works of Toriyama Sekien, an 18th-century scholar and ukiyo-e artist known for his attempt to catalog the many species of yōkai in […]