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Family of Thieves, No. 822 Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Family of Thieves

No. 822 Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun

by Utagawa Yoshiiku, 1874

Showing the Flag, No. 849 Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun

IHL Cat. #401

About This Print

At the top of this "news nishiki'e" in the banner held aloft by two cherubs is the name of the newspaper who sponsored it, the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun 東京日々新聞.  The print is about "a married couple who are professional thieves. Reversing the 'usual' gender roles, here it is the wife who breaks into houses wearing a sword and clad in a male attire. The husband keeps watch at the door, their baby strapped to his back. The picture shows the family happily making their way home after a 'job.'"1

For a summary of the brief life of nishiki-e shinbun (newspaper color woodblock prints) see the article Nishiki-e shinbun and Newspapers in Meiji Japan.

1 Waseda University Library website http://www.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kosho/bunko10/b10_8059_22/index.html

Story Summation and Commentary by William Wetherall

Source: Nishiki-e Shinbun website of William Wetherall http://www.nishikie.com/stories/TNS-0822_family_of_thieves.html

The wife wears the sword in this family and burglarizes homes while her husband watches the street with their baby on his back. Here the family is going home after a successful heist. If caught in the act, she would probably say she was just cleaning house.

According to the seal, this nishikie was approved for publication the same month the article appeared in the newspaper.

The writer, Dondon, identifies himself as a "News bureau employee" (Shinbunkyoku no yatoido). Dondon is more fully Tentendo Dondon, aka Tentendo Shujin or just Shujin, among other pennames of the writer Takabatake Ransen, a popular writer hired by Tokyo nichinichi shinbun in 1873.


Japanese Transcription of Text

Source: University of Tokyo website http://t4.iii.u-tokyo.ac.jp/archives/digital_archives/ono_collection/contents/item.6.N035.html [note: website is no longer active]

柳下恵(りうかけい)は飴(あめ)を見て嬰児(ミどりご)を養(やしな)ふに良(よし)といい。
盗跖(とうせき)は飴を以て鎖(くさり)を開(あくる)に宜(よし)と
云(いへ)り。邪正(ちやせう)に因(より)て見所(ミどころ)の
違(ちが)ふ訓(たとへ)を甘んぜず。稠粘(ねばり)付(つい)
たる夫婦中(ふうふなか)倶(とも)に悪事(あくじ)を
引延(のバ)す。夜盗(よとう)は
昼(ひる)を白玉(しらたま)飴(あめ)売歩行(うりあるき)
つつ深更(まよなか)ハ。丈夫(おとこ)に扮(いでた)つ
女房が諸方(しよはう)の豪家(がうけ)へ忍(しの)
び入を。夫(おつと)は例(いつ)も児(こ)を抱(いだ)き。
戸口を守
り竊(ぬすみ)たる
衣類(いるゐ) 調度(ちやうど)

脊(せ)に負(お)ふて。語(かたら)ひながら帰れるハ
男女(なんによ)形装(かたち)を異(こと)にして。戯場(しばゐ)に脚色し
笠(かさ)松峠(とうげ)鬼神お松に髣髴(さもに)たる。
夏目(なつめ)にあらで網(あみ)の目(め)を漏(も)れぬ
天罰(てんばつ)報(むく)ひ来て。野州(やしう)橡(とち)木の
檻中(かんちう)につながれたるは
此頃なり
新聞局の雇人 鈍々述


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.

https://jsma.uoregon.edu/FittoPrint


UTAGAWA Yoshiiku (歌川芳幾, 1833-1904)

Japanese; Meiji period, 1874

Family of Thieves, No. 822 of The Tokyo Day-by-Day News (Tōkyō Nichi Nichi Shinbun)

Ukiyo-e woodblock-printed “brocade newspaper” (shinbun nishiki-e) in vertical ōban format; ink and color on paper

The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints, IHL.0401


The prints on this wall all deal with the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. The new Meiji government, founded in 1868, spent its first decade consolidating power by dismantling the samurai class that had constituted its predecessor, the Tokugawa shogunate. Soon the loss of privilege as well as the dislocations brought by rapid modernization provoked a reaction, and in 1877 former samurai and sympathizers in Kyushu rose up against the central government. They were led by Saigō Takamori (1828-1877), hero of the Meiji Restoration, whose career is recounted on this print. The rebellion was unsuccessful, and the defeat of ex-samurai at the hands of the Meiji government’s modern military was a turning point for the new government.

Translation of text on print:

They say Liuxia Hui sees candy and thinks it’s good for nurturing children, while Dao Zhi thinks candy good for opening locked doors. This proverb means that you see things differently depending on whether you’re looking for good or evil. A sweet metaphor, but not too sweet for this couple, who extended it to cover their own matrimonial misdeeds. Thieves by night, by day they walked around peddling shiratama candy. At night the wife would disguise herself as a man and sneak into wealthy houses everywhere while her husband would hold their child and guard the door. Then they would sling their stolen clothing and goods over their shoulders and go home, talking merrily as they went. Their reversal of men’s and women’s roles inspired a theatrical adaptation, for she reminded people of no one so much as Demongod Omatsu of Kasamatsu Pass. But while Omatsu may have evaded Natsume’s gaze, these thieves could not evade the Law’s net: Heaven’s punishment came down upon them, and these days they are in jail in Tochigi, in Yashū.

By Dondon, an employee of the Newspaper Bureau

Notes:

The first sentence is a proverb that is usually given as “Liuxia Hui [a virtuous statesman] sees candy and think it’s good for nurturing old people, while Dao Zhi [a famous robber] thinks it’s good for opening locks.” “Candy” in the world of the proverb was a sugary syrup that, the thinking went, would make a lock easier to pick. Demongod Omatsu (Kijin Omatsu) was a popular kabuki heroine, a bandit who avenged herself on her husband’s murderer, Natsume (the text puns on Natsume and ami no me or “holes in a net”).

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


Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 #401
 Title or Description  Family of Thieves (八百廿貳号 No. 822)
 Newspaper
 Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun  東京日々新聞
 Artist  Utagawa Yoshiiku (1833-1904)
 Signature
Ikkeisai Yoshiiku ga 一恵斎芳幾画
 Seal  芳幾 Yoshiiku (see above)
 Writer of Text
 Takabatake Ransen 高畠 藍泉 (1838-1885), a Tokyo nichinichi writer who wrote most of the stories that accompanied Yoshiiku's pictures for Gusokuya's Tokyo nichinichi shinbun.1
 Publication Date
October 12, 1874
 Publisher
Gusokuya Kahei 具足屋嘉兵衛, [Marks: pub. ref. 085; seal ref. 24-031]

seal reading:
top: 人形町 Ningyōchō
bottom: 具足屋 Gusokuya
 Carver
Watanabe Horiei (渡辺彫栄)
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent
 Genre  ukiyo-e; nishiki-e shinbun
 Miscellaneous  
 Format  vertical oban
 H x W Paper
 14 x 9 1/2 in. (35.6 x 24.1 cm)
 Literature

 Collections This Print
 Waseda University Library 10 08059 0022; Art Research Center (ARC) Ritsumeikan University AcNo. MSZB07-01-31_00001(13032)
The University of Tokyo Digital Archives Ono Hideo Collection N035; Tokyo Metropolitan Library 008-029-1; ARC 国会109-03-033; Hagi Uragami Museum U01164

1 Nishiki-e Shinbun website of William Wetherall http://www.nishikie.com/almanac/Almanac_whos_who.html


last revision:
8/23/2021
6/19/2020
4/8/2020

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