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To と from the series Kyōiku iroha tango

Spoiled Chinese Battleship Chinen from the series Comical Art Exhibit of the Sino-Japanese War

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

To と from the series Kyōiku iroha tango

by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1897

Yo ょ from the series Kyōiku iroha tango

IHL Cat. #762

About This Print

One of eighteen prints issued as part of the comic series known as An Alphabet Soup of Moral Issues (Kyōiku iroha dango,) issued between February 1897 and March 1898.  Also seen translated as ABCs of Education, the series illustrates didactic poems in the order of the iroha syllabary with accompanying text by Koppi Dōjin [the pen name of the Nishimori Takeki 西森武城 (1861-1913), one of the chief comic writers for the newspaper Marumaru chinbun].1

While Smith notes that there are twenty-one prints in the series, "the iroha syllabary proceeding only as far as “ra” and apparently skipping “ne”, for a total of twenty-one,"2 the National Diet Library's accordion fold book containing the series only displays eighteen prints.3

The Text Transcribed in Romaji
Source: website of Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften der Universität Wien

Tori naki sato no kōmori4 Koppi-dōjin

Harubaru Tōkyō e dete, sanzan ni oya no/ kane o tsukatta o-kage de mazu wa shubi yoku/ hōtōgaku o sotsugyō, kokyō e no o-miyage wa tada ō-bo/ra to namaiki bakari. Aru hi enzetsu-kai o hiraku to/ fureta, kinjo no rōnyakunannyo wa deroren-saibun demo/ kiku ki de tsumekaketa. Sensei wa dai no tokui-/gao, Hikagemachi shire no yōfuku de nyū/ tto endan e arawareta. En “Ē chōshū sho/kun yo.” Kō “Hei.” Otsu “Hā.” Hei “Nan de gasu.” En “Kore wa ikan shokun wa mada wareware no gotoki gakushi/ hakase tō no enzetsu o kiitaru koto ga nai to miete ichiichi henji o/ suru to wa hanahada shikkei to iwazaru o ezu desu. Shokun/ yoroshiku kinchō shitamae.” Kō “Namiamidabutsu namiamidabutsu.” En/ “Nenbutsu o tonaete wa nao komaru ja nai ka. Damatte kikitamae/ damatte, ē mandō shokun yo boku ga kyō koko ni oite desu/ ichijō no enzetsu o nasan to hossuru tokoro no mono wa desu, sunawachi/ ?Naichi zakkyo no junbi ikan` to iu no ichidai de aru.“ Otsu „Sō desu.“ En „Shokun `Naichi zakkyo`wa/ mohaya ganzen ni sashisematte iru ni kakawarazu.“ Hei „Desu kara ni desu desu.” En “Kore wa shikkei desu./ Boku no enzetsu o gurō suru to wa shikkei desu. Boku no/ enzetsu o gurō suru kurai nara/ chotto koko e kite yatte mitamae. Nakanaka enzetsu ga dekiru/ mono de wa nai desu.“ Kō „Kimi ga sō okoru kurai nara chotto/ koko e kite kiite mitamae nakanaka kikareta mono de wa/ nai desu.“

Kiyochika: Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 17, footnote 119. Also see the article One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs to view another series of comic prints containing commentary by Nishimori. 
2 Ibid.
3 National Diet Library from the Meiji Era http://kindai.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/995317
4 Literally "a bat in a village with no birds," meaning a small person can reign supreme when no great person exists.  A rough equivalency for this Japanese expression in English is "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

This installation features more than 30 loans from two remarkably rich local resources, the Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints, and the Lee & Mary Jean Michels Collection. It was co-curated by Professors Akiko Walley (History of Art and Architecture) and Glynne Walley (East Asian Languages and Literatures) and JSMA Chief Curator Anne Rose Kitagawa. QR codes on selected labels allow visitors to access translations and explanations of the complex wordplay, imagery, and cultural context of these fascinating objects.


KOBAYASHI Kiyochika (小林清親, 1847-1915)

Japanese; Meiji period, 1897

To” (), from the series ABCs of Educational Lectures (Kyōiku iroha tango)

Ukiyo-e woodblock-print in vertical ōban format; ink and color on paper

The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints, IHL.0762


A collaboration between Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) and the writer Nishimori Takeki (also known as Koppi Dōjin; 1861-1913). Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Kiyochika and Nishimori were colleagues working for a satirical journal, Marumaru chinbun (Blue Pencil News of the Weird; on view in the adjacent gallery). Kiyochika produced cartoons for Marumaru chinbun from 1882 to 1894. This series is thought to be the last collaborative print project between Kiyochika and Nishimura. The conceit of this series is a spoof on the Imperial Rescript on Education (Kyōiku chokugo) issued in 1890 to boost morality by reminding people of Confucian and Shinto values. Each print entertains a double-border cartouche imitating the format of cards used in the popular poem-picture card-matching game using Japanese syllables. This print represents the syllable “to” () with the saying, “Tori naki sato ni kōmori,” which is roughly equivalent to “In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King,” but more literally, “Bats in the Land with No Birds.” It satirizes the no-good son of a wealthy provincial family returning from his “Grand Tour” of Tokyo. The “busker” in the original is more specifically, deroren saimon, or “trumpet shell prayer.” The mention of “deroren saimon” is a pun on the phrase “hora o fuku” (to toot on one’s trumpet shell), meaning to “boast” or “tell tall tales.” Deroren was a type of street performance popular during the late Edo (1615-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. A performer told vendetta stories in a distinct rhythmic phrasing, blowing the trumpet shell intermittently uttering the nonsensical word “deroren” to retain audience’s attention.

(Akiko Walley, Maud I. Kerns Associate Professor of Japanese Art, History of Art and Architecture)

Translation of text on print:

ABCs of Educational Lectures: To ()

Tori naki

Sato no kōmori

Koppi Dōjin

Having gone all the way to Tokyo and used up all his parents’ money he has now graduated with a degree in Prodigality, and so he returns home, bearing nothing but boasts and insolence as gifts. One day he lets it be known that he will be giving a Speech, and so everyone in the neighborhood crowds in, old and young, male and female, as they would for any busker. Looking mightily pleased with himself in his Western suit, acquired from a thrift shop, the Professor saunters up to the lectern.

SPEECHIFYER:  Ahem. Ladies and gentlemen…

A:  Hi!

B:  Hey!

C:  ’Sup!

SPEECHIFYER:  This will never do. Ladies and gentlemen, it would appear that you’ve never seen a Doctor or Professor like me deliver a speech. I must say, it is quite rude of you to answer back each and every time I address you! Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you would kindly lend me your ears…

A:  All hail Amitabha Buddha, all hail Amitabha Buddha…

SPEECHIFYER:  Hey, you can’t chant the nenbutsu either! Where do you think you are? Shut up and listen already. Shut up shut up shut up! Ahem. Now, the reason I have gathered so many of you here today, ladies and gentlemen, the theme upon which I wish to dilate, is none other than the question of how best to prepare for domestic integration.

B:  Hear, hear!

SPEECHIFYER:  Ladies and gentlemen, domestic integration is upon us! Upon us, I say, notwithstanding which, ahem.

C:  Ahem, ahem, he says, ahem!

SPEECHIFYER:  How rude! I say it’s rude of you to ridicule my speech like this! If you’re so keen on ridiculing it why don’t you come up here and try for yourself? It’s not so easy to stand up here and give a speech, you know! Ahem.

A:  If you’re going to get so bent out of shape about it why don’t you come down here and try listening to it yourself? That’s not so easy either, ahem!

Further note:

“Domestic integration” translates naichi zakkyo. The initial treaties Japan signed with the West provided for foreigners to live in specially designated areas, with special rights of extraterritoriality, i.e. living subject to the laws of their home country rather than Japan. As the Meiji government worked toward revising these unequal treaties and eliminating extraterritoriality, the question of where foreigners could live and what laws would govern them was a key issue. In 1894 a new treaty was signed with England allowing for British nationals to live outside the treaty ports in exchange for giving up extraterritoriality. The issue was hotly debated in the years leading up to the treaty’s implementation in 1899. This print was published two years before that, in 1897.

(Glynne Walley, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages & Literatures)

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description To と
 Series 教育いろは談語 Kyōiku iroha dango (Alphabet Soup of Moral Issues or ABCs of Education)
 Artist Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)
Kiyochika 清親 
 Seal Kiyochika (see image above)
 Publication Date 1897 8th month 30th day (Meiji 30)  
Takekawa Seikichi i武川清吉 followed by address 日本橋区本銀町二丁目十二番地 (Note: the prints of Sawamuraya Seikichi were sealed Takekawa Seikichi starting in 1876.)  [Marks: seal 26-133; pub. ref. 459]

Top half of cartouche provides printing and release dates.
Bottom half of cartouche provides publisher information and reads:
印刷並ニ発行人 日本橋区本銀町二丁目十二番地武川清吉 
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition fair - overall soiling especially along right side and margins; not backed; repairs from verso along right margin including filling in of paper loss top right corner
 Genre ukiyo-e; fūshiga; giga
 Format vertical ōban
 H x W Paper 
 14 5/8 x 9 3/4 in. (37.1 x 24.8 cm) 
 H x W Image 13 1/4 x 8 7/8 in. (33.7 x 22.5 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften der Universität Wien 11030-07; National Diet Library http://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/995317
last revision: