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[unread senryū] Writing on a shamisen from the series Senryū manga


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

[unread senryū]

Writing on a shamisen

from the series Senryū manga

by Kondō Koichirō, 1930


IHL Cat. #1556

About This Print

This print is one of at least twenty prints created by the painter/manga artist Kondō Kōichiro (1884–1962) and the poet/journalist Kenkabō Inoue (1870-1934) in 1930 which pair a senryū, mostly written by Kenkabō, with an illustration by Kondō.  In this print the senryū is, for now, unread - and the illustration pictures a happy man (likely a customer), sake cup and brush in hand, writing the character for "horse" 馬 on the back of a shamisen while a smiling geisha looks on.

About The Series Senryū manga

In 1930 the painter/manga artist Kondō Kōichiro (1884–1962) and the poet/journalist Kenkabō Inoue (1870-1934) collaborated on a series of at least twenty woodblock prints containing Kenkabō's senryū (short humorous verse) along with Kondō's illustrations, titled Senryū manga 川柳漫画.   The prints seem to have been grouped together in two or more portfolios rather than sold individually and were published by 川柳漫画刊行会 Senryū Manga Kankōkai, most likely a creation of the two artists.

The National Diet Library has several of the prints from this series in their collection along with images of a portfolio cover and table of contents (although the table of contents does not match the prints they show as being in the portfolio.)  Go to http://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/1015589 to see their holding.

Portfolio cover of collection 2

click on image to enlarge
 table of contents

followed by the listing of four senryū

一部賣定價金壹圓貳拾錢  繼續會員に限り
金  壹  圓

click on image to enlarge
colophon sticker from back of portfolio
(pricing information)

反印刷人 武田基一 

発行所 川柳漫刊行會
followed by contact information for publisher

What are Senryū?
Sources: Light Verse from the Floating World, Makoto Ueda, Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 32-33; Senryu Japanese Satirical Verses, R. H. Blyth, The Hokuseido Press, 1949.

senry is the expression of a moment of psychological insight into the life of human beings; nature is either absent or a mere background.  Like haiku, it is a short unrhymed verse with the 5–7–5 syllable pattern. Unlike haiku, however, it requires no word implying the season of the year, as it draws less on nature than on human nature. Whereas a haiku poet in general tries to capture a moment of insight into the mysterious workings of the natural world, a writer of senry keenly studies various aspects of the human condition and reports his  findings in a humorous way, the humor sometimes crossing over to the territory of satire.

The word senry is derived from the name of a person, Karai Senry (1718–1790), who lived in the downtown district of Edo. His real name was Karai Hachiemon, and he made a living as the head official of his ward.  In 1757, for unknown reasons, he decided to make a debut as a master of maekuzuke, a verse-writing game played by a good many  people in Japan at that time.  Senry, which literally means “river  willow,” was the professional name he adopted on becoming a master.

The revitalization and modernization of senry in the early 1900s is credited to two journalists who worked for the daily newspaper Nihon Shimbun.  The first, Sakai Kuraki (1869–1945), promoted the restoration of the free spirit of senry.  His  successor at the paper, Inoue Kenkab (1870–1934), encouraged senryūwriters to take up topics characteristic of the emerging new society through his column called “Shindai yanagidaru” (Yanagidaru on Modern Topics).

Less than one year after the inauguration of Inoue's column, the number of contributors of senry to the paper had increased to more than three hundred.  Soon senry groups were being organized all over Japan, many of them starting their own magazines. By 1912, the number of such magazines published in Japan had reached fifty. Many major newspapers, weeklies, and monthlies also came to devote space to their readers’ senry. The trend accelerated with time so that in 1935 of the more than two hundred national and local newspapers almost all had space dedicated to senry.

About Inoue Kenkabō
Source: http://archive.li/f08u7

Inoue Kenkab (1870-1934), writer of senryū (short, humorous verse), was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1870. His real name was Inoue Koichi.

After working as a substitute elementary school teacher and a reporter for a local newspaper, he moved to Tokyo in 1900 and began writing the arts column for the magazine, Myogi. Three years later, he joined the Nihon Shimbun newspaper. Using the pen name, Kenkab, he began a column called Shindai yanagidaru, which advocated a new style of senryū.   

In 1905, he founded a circle known as Rysonji Senry Kai, which brought out its own magazine, Senry. After retiring from Nihon Shimbun, Kenkab continued to run the senry sections of the Kokumin and Yomiuri newspapers and resurrected Senry in 1912, renaming it Taisho Senry
to mark the beginning of the new era. All during this time, Kenkab continued to encourage innovations in the senry genre.

With the arrival of yet another era, Showa, in 1926, he again changed the name of the magazine, this time to Senryjin. He also wrote the treatises, Proletariat Literature and Bourgeois Literature, and Senry odo ron ("Royal Way of Senryū"), and contributed pieces to the magazines, Nihon oyobi Nihonjin ("Japan and the Japanese") and Kaizo ("Reconstruction"). 

Kenkab's senry are characterized by their grandeur and generosity. Although their aims were different, he and Sakai Kuraki shared the reputation of the most outstanding revivers of senry. Kenkab had disciples all around Japan, including Kawakami Santaro, Murata Shugyo and Kijir (novelist Yoshikawa Eiji's senry pen name). His works include Shin senry rokusen ku ("Six Thousand New Senryū"), Senry o tsukuru hito ni ("For Senry Poets") and Ko senry shinzui ("The Essence of Classical Senryū").

In 1934, Kenkab came to the Shotoin temple in the precincts of Kenchoji temple to write a biography and recuperate from an illness, but he died later that year in September, at the age of 64. 

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1556
 Title/Description unread [writing on a shamisen]
 Series Senryū manga 川柳漫画
 Kondō Koichirō (1884–1962)
Kōichiro ga
 Seal none
 Date 明治五年六月廿日印刷 Showa 5th year 6th month, 20th day, printed 
 明治五年六月廿一日発行 Showa 5th year 6th month, 20th day, issued 
 (dates are taken from the table of contents of the portfolio in the collection of the National Diet Library)
 Edition first and only
 Publisher 川柳漫画刊行会 Senryū Manga Kankōkai 
 Printer 印刷人武田基一 printer Kiichi Takeda
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent 
 Genre senryū manga
 Format chuban
 H x W Paper 9 x 6 7/8 in. (22.9 x 17.5 cm)
 H x W Image 8 13/16 x 6 9/16 in. (22.4 x 16.7 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Reference Literature