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Akasaka Palace from the series Scenes of Last Tokyo

Stone Bodhisattva at Datong, China

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Akasaka Palace

from the series Scenes of Last Tokyo

by Hiratsuka Un'ichi, 1945

Toy Horse


IHL Cat.#1953

About This Print

One of fifteen prints from the 1945 series Scenes of Last Tokyo.  This print was one of eight designs for the series which originally appeared in the 1929-1932 series Shin Tokyo hyakkei (One Hundred Views of New Tokyo).  (For an image of the 1929 release, see below.)  This 1945 print was made from recut blocks.  It is one of two designs that Hiratsuka contributed to Scenes of Last Tokyo, the publication of which was orchestrated by Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955).

For more details on the series go to the article Scenes of Last Tokyo.

Hiratsuka's view of Akasaka Palace is rather bleak - trees without leaves, absent of people, an ochre hued sky and foreground and the palace itself.  It speaks to the time when the future was uncertain and the past fresh in memory.

The below photo was taken at about the same time as the print was made, although the season appears to be spring or summer.  A U.S. Army jeep and G.I.s are to the left of the gate.

Main Gate of the Akasaka Palace, photograph, October 1945
The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum
Source: University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth437126/


"The Akasaka Place was designed by Katayama Tokuma, a disciple of Josiah Condor, and was completed in 1909. Neo-Baroque in style, it was one of the largest official buildings constructed during the Meiji era. It served as the residence of the Crown Prince and was where Emperor Hirohito resided during the reconstruction of the city after the Great Kantō Earthquake. Since 1974, it has been used to house guests of state."1

The palace was lightly damaged during the allied bombings of Tokyo on the night of April 13-14, 1945. The following is taken from the April 14 Imperial Headquarters Communiqué: “Fires which broke out at parts of the edifices in the Imperial Palace, the Omiya Palace, and the Akasaka Detached Palace, due to the said bombing, were promptly brought under control, but the Main and Worship Halls of the Meiji Shrine were finally burnt down.”2

The Original 1929 Print 
The 1929 print, while still set during winter, is a bit less bleak, as Hiratsuka employed a brighter shade of ochre for the background and foreground.

Akasaka Palace (Akasaka Gosho), 1929 by Hiratsuka Un'ichi
Publisher:  Nakajima Jûtarô of Sôsaku-Hanga Club
Dimensions: sheet 8 3/16 × 10 7/8 in (20.80 × 27.62 cm) image 7 3/16 × 9 5/8 in (18.25 × 24.45 cm)
Carnegie Museum of Art, Credit Bequest of Dr. James B. Austin Accession number: 89.28.206.3
1 website of the Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium Amherst College | Hampshire College | Historic Deerfield | Mount 
Holyoke College | Smith College | UMASS Amherst 
2 website of the Asia-Pacific Journal https://apjjf.org/2016/12/Sams.html (accessed 12/16/2018)

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #1953
 Title
Akasaka Palais 赤坂離宮 

label affixed to folder reading:
赤坂離宮 平塚運一
Akasaka rikyū Hiratsuka Un'ichi

 Series  Scenes of Last Tokyo (Tokyo kaiko zue 東京回顧圖會) 
 Artist 
 Hiratsuka Un'ichi (1895-1997)
 Signature 
 unsigned
 Seal
運一 印 un'ichi in

 Date  originally 1929 in the series One Hundred Views of New Tokyo (Shin Tokyo hyakkei). Again in 1945 using recarved blocks for the series Scenes of Last Tokyo (Tokyo kaiko zue)
 Edition  1945 (literature sometimes shows 1946 as publication date)
 Publisher  Fugaku Shuppansha 富岳出版社, Tokyo, Uemura Masurō 上村益郎 publisher
 Printer  Hirai Kōichi 平井孝一
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  good
 Condition good - in original folder which displays toning.
 Genre  sosaku-hanga (creative print)
 Miscellaneous  Reprinted for this series from recut blocks of original 1929 image published as part of the series One Hundred Views of New Tokyo (Shin Tokyo hyakkei). 
 Format  chuban
 H x W Paper  7 13/16 x 10 1/4 in. (19.8 x 26 cm)
 H x W Image  7 3/16 x  9 9/16 in. (18.3 x 24.3 cm)
 Collections This Print  Art Institute Chicago 1990.337.2; Portland Art Museum 1996.31.2b; Worcester Art Museum 1987.79.4; Carnegie Museum of Art 89.28.709.2; The British Museum 1980,1227,0.18.2; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 65.1085; Mead Art Museum at Amherst College AC 2008.63.2; Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S1995.118.8
 Reference Literature  The Artist's Touch, The Craftsman's Hand: Three Centuries of Japanese Prints from the Portland Art Museum, Maribeth Graybill, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, 2011, p. 295; Terrific Tokyo: A Panorama in Prints from the 1860s to the 1930s, Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, Worcester Art Museum, 1999. p. 74.
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