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Educational Color Woodblock Prints (issued by the Ministry of Education)

Full Color Prints Issued by the Ministry of Education
in 1873
(文部省発行教育錦絵 Monbushō hakkō kyōiku nishiki-e)


PRINTS IN THE COLLECTION

 
Pilferer
Pilferer from the series Little Child's Pictures for Home Entertainment
(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)

IHL Cat. #617

 
Waterwheel from an untitled series on the Rice Plant
(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)
IHL Cat. #632

Rice Storage from an untitled series on the Rice Plant
Rice Storage
from an untitled series on
the Rice Plant

(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)
IHL Cat. #633

 
[Principles and Applications of the] Wheel and Axle from an untitled series of prints on Mechanics
[Principles and Applications of the] Wheel and Axle from an untitled series of prints on Mechanics
(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)
IHL Cat. #765
 
[Principles and Applications of the] Lever from an untitled series on Mechanics
[Principles and Applications of the] Lever
from an untitled series on Mechanics

(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)
IHL Cat. #766
 
[Principles and Applications of the] Wedge from an untitled series of prints on Mechanics
[Principles and Applications of the] Wedge from an untitled series of prints on Mechanics
(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)
IHL Cat. #767

 
Thomas Carlyle from the series Legends of Great Westerners
(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)
IHL Cat. #1970
 
Richard Arkwright from the series Legends of Great Westerners
(attributed to the school of
Utagawa Kuniteru II)
IHL Cat. #1971

In October 1873, the Ministry of Education proclaimed that it would “improve the education of families with young children” by producing “a variety of art and toy products appropriate for children soon entering schools.”1 It then issued over 100 nishiki-e (color woodblock prints) as an aid for the education of young children and for adults. The total number of prints made and distributed is unknown but there are records of the Ministry distributing seven sets to Tokyo and a set each to other regional prefectures.2 Some prints were specifically targeted for home use with pre-school age children while others were issued to make up for “the lack of textbooks in Japan.”3 

The Ministry advertised these prints "As an aid to the education of the young child (yōdō) 幼童) within the home… use these pictures as a toy when the child is sitting or lying down. And when the child reaches the age to enter elementary school, the effect will be no small matter.”4  A set of 80 prints is listed by the Ministry as costing 26 sen and six ri.5 

These prints are referred to as Monbushō hakkō kyōiku nishiki-e 文部省発行教育錦絵 (often shortened to simply Kyōiku nishiki-e 教育錦絵) which is seen variously translated into English as “Pedagogic Brocade Prints published by the Ministry of Education”, “Full-color prints issued by the Ministry of Education” and  “Pictures for Children and Home Teaching”.  The prints covered subjects including the basic principles of mechanics and physics, the accomplishments of great Western inventors and authors and lessons that can be drawn from their diligence, proper moral behavior and home economics.

As can be seen below, some of the prints have extensive text, appropriate for adult education, and some have little or no text, suitable for a parents to discuss with their young child.

Examples of Ministry of Education Color Woodblock Prints
Source: All images (except "New Currency") copied from University of Tsukuba Library Kyoiku Nishikie (The Full Color Prints issued by the Ministry of Education) http://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/lib/ja/collection/rare-kyoiku-nishikie "New Currency" copied from the website of Bank of Japan Currency Museum.

Wedges
[The Study of Natural Laws (mechanics) - Principals and Applications] 

 
難渋者ヲ侮辱ムル童男
Children Insulting a Suffering Man from the series Little Child Pictures for Home Entertainment
[Moral Lessons]
 
心切なる童女
Good Girls [leading a blind man] from the series Little Child Pictures for Home Entertainment
[Moral Lessons]

家屋の設計・割付
Designing and Planning a House
[Housing - until completion of Framework]

    
の用
Use of Cedar
[Housing]
新貨幣と両替屋
New Currency and Exchange for Old Currency

稲 稲の種類
Types of Rice Plants
[Food]


西洋人形着せ替
Dress up Western Dolls
[Paper Models]
 
仏蘭克林 (電気)
Furankurin (Denki)
[Benjamin] Franklin (Electricity)
from the series Legends of Great Westerners

浮力
Buoyancy
[Study of Natural Laws]

    

Origin of Subject Matter
The subject matter for many of the prints has been linked to the Chinese translation of “Chambers’s Information for the People", 1842 by William and Robert Chambers, (essentially an encyclopedia)6,   and Nakamura Masanao’s Saikoku rishi hen 西国立志編, a translation of Samuel Smiles 1859 "Self-Help With Illustrations of Character and Conduct".7 

The Artist(s)

The prints often, but not always, carry the seal of the Ministry of Education (Monbushō) reading 文部省製本所発行記 (Ministry of Education Publication). (See image to the left.)

Most of the prints do not carry a signature, but 30 prints are signed 国輝 Kuniteru [ Utagawa Kuniteru II (1830-1874)] and those not carrying a signature are attributed to “disciples of Utagawa Kuniteru” or “the studio Utagawa Kuniteru” or “the school of Kuniteru.” It is reasonably argued that while the signature of the well-known Utagawa school artist Kuniteru on prints would enhance their popular appeal, the signatures of his lesser known disciples would add little value to the print.8

Resources for Additional Information

English Language

“A Study of ‘The Full Color Prints issued by the Ministry of Education’ in Meiji Era Japan”, Okano Motoko https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/56631724.pdf

Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, “Pedagogic polychrome nishiki-e prints published by the Ministry of Education,” Hirano Akira, appearing in E-magazine, issue 16.
http://sainsbury-institute.org/support-us/e-magazine-issue-16/treasures-of-the-library/

"Raising Subjects: The Representation of Children and Childhood in Meiji Japan," Rhiannon Paget an article from New Voices: A Journal for Emerging Scholars of Japanese Studies in Australia and New Zealand, Volume 4, 2011.
https://newvoices.org.au/volume-4/raising-subjects-the-representation-of-children-and-childhood-in-meiji-japan/

University of Tsukuba Library: Educational Color Woodblock Prints  http://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/pub/kichosho/kyoiku-nishikie-eng.html

Japanese Language

“A Study on the Ideological Background about the Media Policy of Visual Education in Early Meiji Era,” Takako FURUYA, University of Tokyo, 2006
https://ci.nii.ac.jp/els/contentscinii_20190112080251.pdf?id=ART0008387827

“A Study on the Visual−Educational Media in Early Meiji Era − The historical significance of Educational Pictures made by the Ministryof Education,” Takako Furuya, University of Tokyo, 2006
https://ci.nii.ac.jp/els/contentscinii_20190112080257.pdf?id=ART0008391923

近代教育錦絵の研究―『文部省発行教育錦絵』における図像解釈とその典拠  筑波大学大学院人間総合科学研究科芸術専攻  井上 素子

Images Online

University of Tsukuba Library Kyoiku Nishikie (The Full Color Prints issued by the Ministry of Education)
http://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/lib/ja/collection/rare-kyoiku-nishikie

Honolulu Museum of Art

1 "Pedagogic polychrome nishiki-e prints published by the Ministry of Education" by Hirano Akira - Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of East Anglia http://sainsbury-institute.org/support-us/e-magazine-issue-16/treasures-of-the-library/
2  ibid.
3 “A Study of ‘The Full Color Prints issued by the Ministry of Education’ in Meiji Era Japan”, Okano Motoko, p.4 https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/56631724.pdf
4 "Raising Subjects: The Representation of Children and Childhood in Meiji Japan," Rhiannon Paget an article from New Voices: A Journal for Emerging Scholars of Japanese Studies in Australia and New Zealand, Volume 4, 2011. https://newvoices.org.au/volume-4/raising-subjects-the-representation-of-children-and-childhood-in-meiji-japan/
5 Paget points out that it is unknown whether this was the wholesale, re-sale or end consumer price.
6 The Japanese translation of this work, Hyakka zensho, was not published until 1876.
7 Nakamura Masanao 中村正直 (1832-1891), was a proponent of education for women and children and served as the first principal of the Tokyo Girl’s School (Tokyo Joshi Shihan Gakko).
8 op. cit. Okano Motoko


last revision:
1/30/2019
1/17/2019


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