Tag: ‘Vintage’

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, according to popular legend, caused earthquakes by thrashing about in their underground lairs. In addition to providing humor and social commentary, many prints claimed to offer protection from future earthquakes.

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
1. Earthquake victims take revenge on the giant catfish responsible for the destruction [+]

The popularity of namazu-e exploded, and as many as 400 different types became available within weeks. However, the namazu-e phenomenon abruptly ended two months later when the Tokugawa government, which ordinarily maintained a strict system of censorship over the publishing industry, cracked down on production. Only a handful are known to survive today.

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Namazu-e earthquake catfish picture --
2. Namazu and the kaname-ishi rock [+]

Namazu are normally kept under control by the god Kashima using a large rock known as kaname-ishi. The Great Ansei Earthquake of 1855 is said to have occurred when Kashima went out of town and left Ebisu (god of fishing and commerce) in charge. In this print, the giant subterranean catfish unleashes destruction on the city while Ebisu sleeps on the job. Kashima rushes home on horseback while the city burns, and Raijin the thunder god defecates drums. Large gold coins fall from the sky, symbolizing the redistribution of wealth during the rebuilding phase.

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Catfish ukiyoe print --
3. Tug-of-war between namazu and the god Kashima [+]

This print shows a namazu engaged in a fierce game of "neck tug-of-war" with the god Kashima. A group of earthquake victims root for Kashima, while those who typically profit from earthquakes (construction workers, firemen, news publishers, etc.) root for the catfish.

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Catfish ukiyo-e print --
4. Ancient catfish (Artists: Kyosai Kawanabe and Robun Kanagaki)

Produced two days after the earthquake, this work by Kyosai Kawanabe and Robun Kanagaki is considered the first namazu-e catfish print. The picture, which makes reference to a popular kabuki play of the era, inspired the creation of many namazu-e prints to follow.

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Woodblock print of earthquake catfish --
5. Magical method of earthquake protection [+]

This protective print, which claims to prevent earthquake damage to one's home if attached to the ceiling, shows a group of remorseful catfish apologizing to the god Kashima for causing earthquakes while he was away.

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Namazu-e ukiyo-e picture --
6. Catfish family

This print shows a mob of earthquake victims coming to take revenge on a namazu and its children.

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Namazue ukiyoe print --
7. For peace and tranquility [+]

In this print, which claims to offer protection from earthquakes, the god Kashima and prostitutes from the Yoshiwara red-light district express their anger toward the catfish responsible for earthquakes.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
8. Namazu saviors

Some prints show the benevolent side of namazu. Here, they are seen rescuing people from the rubble.

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Namazu-e mythical catfish print --
9. Daikoku, the popular god of wealth, restrains a namazu and showers people with money [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
10. Kashima restrains a namazu using the kaname-ishi rock

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
11. Kashima, kaname-ishi, and namazu [+]

In this print, the god Kashima is pictured in the top right corner. The kaname-ishi rock, portrayed as a person, stands on the head of the catfish, while a crowd of people try to subdue the giant beast. The people on the left who are not helping subdue the catfish include construction workers and others who typically profit from earthquakes.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
12. Earthquake hand game

This print is a reference to the old Japanese saying, "The most frightening things are earthquakes, thunder, fires, and fathers." Here, a namazu plays janken (paper-rock-scissors) with the gods of thunder and fire while an elderly man (father) looks on.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
13. Earthquakes, thunder, fires and fathers [+]

This print also makes reference to the old Japanese saying, "The most frightening things are earthquakes, thunder, fires, and fathers." Here, a namazu and the gods of thunder and fire discuss their powers over a fish dinner while a middle-aged man (father) looks on.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
14. Tipsiness following the great namazu [+]

In this print, the god Kashima stabs his sword into the throat of the namazu, which is laid out on a giant table. The crowd of onlookers is divided into two groups. The people in the top half of the picture are labeled as "smiling" (those who benefit from the earthquake) and the people at the bottom are labeled as "weeping" (those who are harmed by the earthquake). The top group includes a carpenter, a plasterer, a lumber salesman, a blacksmith and a roofer, as well as an elite courtesan, an ordinary prostitute, a physician, and sellers of ready-to-eat foods. The bottom group includes a teahouse proprietor, an eel seller, various entertainers such as musicians, comedians and storytellers, a seller of luxury goods, a diamond seller, and a seller of imported goods.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
15. Prosperity of the Ansei era [+]

This print, which shows a namazu punishing a rich man and a famous actor, illustrates a popular theory that the gods deliberately allowed the earthquake to happen in order to rectify some of the imbalances in the world.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
16. Namazu attacked by the citizens of Edo [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
17. Catfish and construction workers partying in the Yoshiwara red-light district, pt. 1 [+]

This print depicts a crowd of namazu and newly prosperous construction workers living it up at a parlor house in the Yoshiwara pleasure district.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
18. Catfish and construction workers partying in the Yoshiwara red-light district, pt. 2 [+]

This print also shows carpenters, plasterers and roofers drinking and making merry in the Yoshiwara pleasure district while a namazu is restrained with a gourd.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
19. The earthquake and a "million prayers" [+]

This print depicts a namazu as a priest seated inside a giant rosary. The creature does not want to cause any more earthquakes, but the "worshipers" -- tradesmen such as lumber dealers and carpenters who profit from the disaster -- are praying for it to act up again. The ghosts of earthquake victims float overhead.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
20. Earthquake catfish and world rectification [+]

In this print, a group of construction workers pay respect to the namazu for helping them strike it rich.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
21. The shaking of greater Edo [+]

This print shows a massive steamship-like namazu approaching the city. The creature is spouting money, and people on shore beckon for it to come closer. The depiction of this namazu conjures up images of Commodore Perry's black ships, which arrived in Japan in 1853 and eventually forced the country to open its ports to Western commerce.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
22. The perpetrators of three big quakes captured alive [+]

In this print, the god Kashima has captured the catfish responsible for the major earthquakes in Shinshu, Edo, and Odawara. A carpenter, fireman, plasterer and roofer try to persuade the god to release the catfish, saying the creatures have apologized enough. The unforgiving Kashima sentences the fish to be cooked in a nabe stew.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
23. Namazu of Edo and Shinshu

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
24. Ebisu apologizes [+]

In this print, Ebisu (god of fishing and commerce) apologizes to Kashima for falling asleep on the job after drinking. The catfish leader is also apologizing, saying it was the thoughtless ones that went wild.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
25. Peace in the Ansei era

This print shows the god Kashima using the kaname-ishi to subdue the namazu responsible for the recent earthquakes.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
26. Namazu is wrestled into submission and placed under the kaname-ishi rock [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
27. Ridgepole raising

This print shows a group of namazu construction workers erecting the kanji character å¹³ (hira), which can symbolize "peace."

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
28. A man entertains a namazu [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
29. People inspect a namazu picture

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
30. Monster namazu in the storehouse [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
31. Gourd and catfish

In this print, a namazu tries to help a comrade escape from a trap by handing it a gourd. The image is a reference to the old Japanese expression "gourd and catfish" (meaning "slippery" or "elusive"), which originates from a famous 15th-century Zen painting of a man trying to catch a catfish with a gourd.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
32. Mob takes revenge on a namazu [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
33. Catching a catfish with a gourd (Artist: Kunisada Utagawa) [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
34. People who profit from earthquakes make offerings to a namazu [+]

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
35. Fear of Kashima

This print shows people dancing around a namazu dressed as a representative of Kashima shrine in an annual ritual held before the start of the new agricultural season. The image of the rabbit represents the zodiac year of the rabbit (1855).

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
36. Reassurance of the quake-suppressing rock [+]

A crowd of elderly people, carpenters, young wives, china-shop owners, entertainers, Yoshiwara prostitutes, physicians, and others are offering prayers to the kaname-ishi rock, believed to have the power to keep earthquakes in check. When a person in the crowd voices his doubts about the rock's powers, the rock responds, "I assure you that if the earth moves even a little I will stand on my head." In the original Japanese, this answer features a pun on the words ishi-gaeshi ("overturning a rock") and ishu-gaeshi ("taking revenge").

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
37. Earthquake protection song

In this print, Daikoku, the popular god of wealth, showers people with money while the god Kashima restrains a namazu.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
38. Frightened namazu [+]

This print shows a mother namazu chasing a mob of people who have kidnapped her two children. The message on the flag carried by a person in the crowd suggests they intend to grill and eat the young catfish.

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
39. Namazu with construction tools, portrayed as the legendary warrior Benkei

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Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
40. The god Ebisu restrains a giant catfish with a gourd [+]

[More: Disaster Prevention Museum, National Diet Library]

Japanese sci-fi art (1972-1985)

09 Mar 2011

50 Watts (formerly "A Journey Round My Skull") has posted a splendid assortment of 1970s and 1980s Japanese sci-fi art from old illustration books and catalogs. [More]

Retro Japanese scifi ilustration --
Pater Sato magazine cover

Retro Japanese scifi art --
Hitoshi Ikematsu book jacket illustration, 1984

Retro Japanese fantasy art --
Noriyoshi Ohrai

Retro Japanese fantasy illustration --
Black Space -- Shuji Tanase, 1982

Retro Japanese fantasy art --
Atsushi Yoshioka

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 Japan. Here are 25 monsters from the book.

Monster from Kaibutsu Ehon --
Mikoshi-nyūdō -- Monk-like creature that grows taller the more you look at it

Yokai from Kaibutsu Ehon --
Nue -- Chimera-like bringer of misfortune that can fly and morph into a dark cloud

Youkai from Kaibutsu Ehon --
Futsukeshibaba (a.k.a. Hikeshibaba) -- Mysterious old woman in white who extinguishes lanterns

Monster from Kaibutsu Ehon --
Kasha -- Cat-like demon that descends from the sky to feed on corpses before cremation

Yokai from Kaibutsu Ehon --
Noderabō -- Strange creature standing near a temple bell

Youkai from Kaibutsu Ehon --
Waraime (a.k.a. Kerakera-onna) -- Giant cackling woman

Monster from Kaibutsu Ehon --
Daibutsu-kaibutsu -- Mysterious pile of crumbling skulls

See more monsters from the Kaibutsu Ehon »

Fake vintage Japanese ad mascots

01 Mar 2011

Argentina-based artist Juan Molinet has created a series of fictional Japanese ads featuring retro-style characters.

Fake vintage Japanese ad character by Juan Molinet --
Osaka's Marshmellow Kid

Fake vintage Japanese ad character by Juan Molinet --
Nagoya Sweet Salami Co.

Fake vintage Japanese ad character by Juan Molinet --
Sumitomo Calamari Ice Cream

Fake vintage Japanese ad character by Juan Molinet --
Cheesus by Hokama Good Cheese Co.

Fake vintage Japanese ad character by Juan Molinet --
Kyoto Seafood Processing Co.

Fake vintage Japanese ad character by Juan Molinet --
Satoyama Whistle Co.

Fake vintage Japanese ad character by Juan Molinet --
Hokaido Industrial Sushi Food Co.

[Link]

Pachimon playing cards

23 Feb 2011

In the early 1970s, the Kewpie Corporation (maker of Kewpie brand mayonnaise) produced a deck of promotional playing cards featuring various pachimon kaiju (imitation monsters modeled after creatures from popular movies and TV shows).

Pachimono playing cards -- Pachimono playing cards --
1 -- Kyuradorosu (vampire monster)/ Height: 5 meters/ Weight: 800 kilograms/ From Chiba
2 -- Kashuasu (pollution monster)/ Height: 10 meters/ Weight: 3,000 tons/ From Osaka

Pachimon playing cards -- Pachimon playing cards --
3 -- Gohoho (ice monster)/ 18m/ 10,000 tons/ From the South Pole, moved to Tokyo
4 -- Altamegaro (space monster)/ 35m/ Weight unknown/ From Alta W, planet 5

Pachi playing cards -- Pachi playing cards --
5 -- Deredoron (pesticide monster)/ 20m/ 10,000 tons/ From Tohoku
6 -- Tapikurosaurus (ancient monster)/ 35m/ 9,000 tons/ From Kyushu

Pachimon playing cards -- Pachimon playing cards --
7 -- Elekipurosu (electric humanoid)/ 25m/ 15,000 tons/ From Kurobe Dam
8 -- Meji (space wolf)/ 16m/ 5 tons/ From Meteoroid R

Pachimono playing cards -- Pachimono playing cards --
9 -- Eru (space monster)/ 32m/ 18,000 tons/ From the planet Pegasus
10 -- Puradon (space monster)/ 32m/ 5,000 tons/ From Galaxy W, planet 8

Pachi playing cards -- Pachi playing cards --
J -- Mambaa (monster fish)/ 20m/ 15,000 tons/ From the Arctic depths
Q -- Oapiaa (proto-Saharan)/ 6m/ 1 ton/ From the Sahara Desert

Pachimon playing cards -- Pachimon playing cards --
K -- Alien Achiira (space monster)/ 15m/ 9 tons/ From the planet Achiira, moved to Japan Alps
1 -- Methanoron (pollution monster)/ 28m/ 30,000 tons/ From Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama area

See more pachi-kaiju playing cards »

Japanese graphic design from the 1920s-30s

15 Feb 2011

In the 1920s and 1930s, Japan embraced new forms of graphic design as waves of social change swept across the nation. This collection of 50 posters, magazine covers and advertisements offer a glimpse at some of the prevailing tendencies in a society transformed by the growth of modern industry and technology, the popularity of Western art and culture, and the emergence of leftist political thought.

Modernist Japanese poster --
"Buy Domestic!" poster, 1930 [+]

Modernist Japanese poster --
Cover of "Nippon" magazine issue #1, Oct 1934 [+]

Modernist Japanese magazine cover --
"Fuji Weekly" cover, Oct 1930 [+]

Modernist Japanese poster -- Modernist Japanese poster --
Poster for Japan's first national census, 1920 [+] // "Health for body and country" poster, c. 1930 [+]

Modernist Japanese poster --
Grand Nagoya Festival poster by Kenkichi Sugimoto, 1933 [+]

Modernist Japanese poster --
Kyoto Grand Exposition to Commemorate the Showa Imperial Coronation, 1928 [+]

Modernist Japanese poster --
Poster design by Shujiro Shimomura, 1928 [+]

Modernist Japanese magazine cover --
"NAPF" (Nippona Artista Proleta Federacio) magazine cover, Feb 1931 [+]

See more Japanese graphic design from the 1920s-30s »

Cute antique Japanese postcards

25 Jan 2011

Here is an assortment of playful Japanese postcards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, found in a recent book by collector Hiroki Hayashi entitled "Antique Cute Post Cards in Japan" (Nippon no kawaii ehagaki).

Vintage Japanese postcards --
Betty Boop (Yamaguchi Seikyokudo Co., Ltd. - c. 1930s)

Vintage Japanese postcards --
Betty Boop (1937)

Vintage Japanese postcards --
Betty Boop, Mickey and Minnie (1936)

Vintage Japanese postcards --
Mickey (c. 1920s-40s)

Vintage Japanese postcards --
Kewpie Mayonnaise ad (1932)

See more cute antique Japanese postcards »

Illustrated anatomy of Gamera and foes

21 Jan 2011

The anatomical features of Gamera and his foes are detailed in a set of illustrations found in one volume of the Kaijū-Kaijin Daizenshū movie monster book series published by Keibunsha in 1972.

Gamera anatomical illustration --
Gamera

Gamera's features include infrared eyes with night vision, arms that can lift 50,000 tons, an organ for producing the flames he shoots from his hands, electrical spikes on his back, poison claws, sac-like organs for storing lava, coal, oil and uranium, balloon-like organs that blast jets of air out through the feet, and a tail of elastic cartilage that can deliver a powerful punch.

Guiron anatomical illustration --
Guiron

Guiron's most prominent feature is his knife-shaped head, which is 100 times harder than diamond and is packed with shuriken-like stars that can be fired from a pair of openings above the eyes. The creature has 360-degree radar vision, 60 times more teeth than a piranha, lungs adapted for long-distance space travel, sac-like organs for storing energy and uranium, balloon-like organs in the legs that blast jets of liquid through the feet, webbed fins for stability in water, and magnetic suction cups on the hands.

Baragon anatomical illustration --
Barugon

Barugon's features include dorsal spikes that produce a deadly rainbow ray, an organ to produce frosty liquid (-100 degree Celsius) that can be shot from his 30-meter-long weaponized tongue, a stomach that can digest diamonds (his favorite food), and radar horns atop his head.

Viras anatomical illustration --
Viras

Viras's features include a spike-shaped head capable of piercing through a meter of steel, a brain with an IQ of 2500, organs for producing a force field and controlling the minds of others, tentacles that are 10,000 times stronger than an elephant's trunk and which can emit powerful beams for space travel, and organs to break down cell tissue and control metamorphosis (for creating its human disguise).

Jiger anatomical illustration --
Jiger

Jiger's features include a pair of horns that shoot missiles made of hardened saliva and one that fires a deadly "magnetium" beam, powerful suction cups covering her entire body, an organ for shooting jets of seawater at 300 kilometers per hour, a stomach that can melt iron ore, and an ovipositor tail.

[Via: Tokusatsu Figure-kan]

Welcome to Japan

19 Jan 2011

Poster by Masayoshi Nakajo, 1988 --
Poster by Masayoshi Nakajo, 1988 [+]

Behold a place where the people's needs miraculously meet the corporate agendas. Enjoy a nation of modern cultural perspectives -- "humanication," "forever freshness" and "the super next." Experience a country that does things better, or so its citizens fervently believe.
- Leonard Koren