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Kyosai hyakuzu, Kappa no he


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Kappa no he

from the series Kyosai Hyakuzu

by Kawanabe Kyosai, c. 1863-1866

IHL Cat. #464

About this Print and the Series Kyosai Hyakuzu

The Series
Source: Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyôsai, Oikawa Shigeru, Clark Timothy and Forrer Matthi, Tokyo Shinbun, 1996, p. 206.
This print was issued as part of the series the Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyosai) which consists of more than 200 pictorializations of proverbs and depictions of famous subjects unrelated to proverbs. The prints were published continuously from 1863 to 1866* by the publisher Wakasaya and the works were later reprinted in album form by the publisher Okura Magobei (Okuraya) in 1881 and 1886.  The prints in this collection are likely from one of Okura Magobei's reprint editions, as they show evidence of having been removed from an album.

One hundred of the proverbs depicted in Kyōsai hyakuzu were translated into French in 1885 under the title Cent Proverbes Japonais by Francis Steenackers and Ueda Tokunosuke.

This print series was very popular, enhancing Kyosai's reputation and making a large profit for the publishers.

*1863-1866 are the most common publication dates provided for these prints, though the literature cites dates as early as 1862 for the first publication date and reprints of this series are still being made.  The prints were first issued by publisher Wakasaya Yoichi (aka Jakurindo Yoichi) as single-sheet prints, sold in ten print packages in a decorative envelope.  Okura Magobei re-published the prints in bound book/album form in the 1880s. 

The Print
This print depicts a legendary kappa (water-imp) farting, sending two fishermen flying.  While the literal translation of Kappa no he の屁 is "a water-imp's fart" it carries the meaning "good for nothing."

In commenting on this print, the catalog from a 1996 exhibition Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai states "...here Kyōsai has shown a kappa whose fart is so strong that fishermen fly away, making them truly good-for-nothing."1

For a fascinating discussion of kappas and flatulence see Jerry Vegder's website http://www.printsofjapan.com/Yoshitoshi_kappa_control.htm

1 Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyosai (Gyōsai no giga, kyōga ten), Shigeru Oikawa; Timothy Clark; et. al, Tōkyō Shinbun, 1996, p. 218, cat. #122-10.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description  Kappa no he
 Artist  Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
 Series Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyosai)
 Signature  Kyōsai giga
 Seal  None
 Publication Date  likely c. 1880s (originally c. 1863-1866)
 Publisher  Okura Magobei
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 excellent - original album backing
 Genre  ukiyo-e; giga (comic print)
 Format  koban [Vertical yotsugiri (quarter ôban)]
 H x W Paper
 7 1/8 x 4 3/4 in. (18.1 x 12.1 cm)
 Reference Literature
 Gyōsai no giga, kyōga ten, Shigeru Oikawa; Timothy Clark; et. al, Tōkyō Shinbun, 1996, p. 210, cat. #122-10.