Kanda, Tokyo: Hasegawa Chūbei, 1885 (Meiji 18). First Edition. 8vo (182 x 119 mm). 19 double leaves (the makura preface has been woodblock-printed in color), COMPLETE. Condition notes: a number of fukurotoji leaf edges split, text with light browning, thumbing, and a few marks to leaves, small hole to margin of leaf 14. Original four-hole (yotsumetoji) binding in the traditional East Asian binding style (fukurotoji), original wrappers (worn, soiled, creased, and with some chips and marks). Original mounted daisen title panel (tear and chips to upper pastedown). A complete but well worn copy, priced accordingly. Preserved in a mylar sleeve. Good. Item #4084
IDIOSYNCRATIC ATTEMPTS AT HUMOR EXPRESSING THE PSYCHIC CRISIS OF JAPAN IN THE THROES OF "MODERNIZATION," AS WESTERN CULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY BECAME MORE AND MORE PREVALANT.
This collection of nineteen humorous rakugo stories was marketed to Japanese "common readers," for scholars most elusive audience in Japan (and elsewhere) as many publications such as the present one were read and reread to pieces by readers young and old.
The illustrations by Utagawa Kunitoshi feature depictions of Western clothing, an umbrella, a train (here powered by horses), a copy of the Yoshiwara saiken (a printed guide to Edo's pleasure houses), two hot-air balloons, a horse-driven train, paper money, a punt race (rowing), dueling shōgi game pieces (mounted on horseback), and other oddities.
Kunitoshi (1847-1899), a student of Kunisada Utagawa, was 19 years old when the Meiji period began (in 1868). Instead of following his teacher, a master of ukiyo-e art, he chose to engage in the emerging field illustrating the Westernization and modernization of Japan: trains, buildings made of stone, steel bridges, street cars, art exhibitions, and so forth. Kunitoshi's illustrations are significant for documenting the development of Japan from a medieval, agrarian country during the Edo period to one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
The present edition includes Sanyutei Encho's "Kyōgen no kaikaburi," a comic short story describing an interaction between a greengrocer and a customer. Encho was a rakugo storyteller who opened up new possibilities for traditional storytelling during the transition between the Edo and Meiji periods.
No physical copies have been traced outside of Japan.
Save the front pastedown (which is red), the present binding is identical to the copy in the Edo-Tokyo-Museum, which is just as worn as ours, if not more so.