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Crossing Guard from the series Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, Series 1

Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)
 

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Crossing Guard

print number 18 from the series

Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, Series 1

by Wada Sanzō, 1940

Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)


IHL Cat. #1005

About This Print

A crossing guard leans against the railway gate awaiting a passing train.  An unsmiling crowd of laborers, children, mothers, a salaryman, and a horse await his raising of the gate.  This print was originally issued in 1940 Nishinomiya Shoin and it is unknown if it was re-issued after the War by Kyoto Hangain.  Different states of the print exist, primarily differentiated by the placement of the artist's signature and seal within the image.  

About the Series "Occupations of the Shōwa Era in Pictures"
Sources: website of Ross Walker Ohmi Gallery http://www.ohmigallery.com/DB/Artists/Sales/Wada_Sanzo.asp  and website of USC Pacific Asian Museum "Exhibition - The Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures: The Woodblock Prints of Wada Sanzō" 

Note: 
My special thanks to Shinagawa Daiwa, the current owner of Kyoto Hangain, for providing the below information (in a series of emails in July 2014) about Nishinomiya Shoin and Kyoto Hangain, both businesses started by his father Shinagawa Kyoomi.  Shinagawa's current website can be accessed at http://www.amy.hi-ho.ne.jp/kyotohangain/

Wada’s major contribution as a woodblock print artist came through his 72 print 3-part series Occupations of the Shōwa Era in Pictures (Shōwa shokugyō e-zukishi), sometimes translated as Japanese Vocations in Pictures. The three part series was started during the Pacific War (1937-1945) in September 1938, was then interrupted by war shortages in 1943, and was restarted again after the war in January 1954. This series was a labor of love for Wada and he brought together woodblock print printers and carvers in Nishimomiya near Kobe to work on this project

The war era prints were published by Wada through an old books store, Nishinomiya shoin 西宮書院 run by Shinagawa Kyoomi  
品川清臣.  Wada
 
 planned a total of 100 designs, with two prints being issued each month. Wada's designs for the prints were rendered in watercolor and the finished prints beautifully captured the look-and-feel of those original watercolors. The series was an immediate hit, but was suspended after 48 prints (issued in two series) in 1943 due to war shortages.

After the war, the series was continued by the same publisher, Shinagawa Kyoomi, who had opened a new business in Kyoto, which he named Kyoto Hangain 京都版画院.  (Shingawa's business in Nishinomiya had burned down during WWII.) At first Kyoto Hangain published re-prints of the earlier prints, but they went on to publish a third series of 24 prints, working closely with Wada, titled Continuing Occupations of the Shōwa Era in Pictures between November 1954 and September 1956. The post-war prints were popular with the Occupation's "deep-pocketed" military and civilian personnel and the series was "featured in an article of the Tokyo edition of the United States military newspaper Stars and Stripes."2 Shinagawa also published a six print portfolio in the 1950s titled Japanese Life and Customs, consisting of six of the prints from the earlier two series in a reduced chuban size, which is also part of this collection.

Occupations of the Shōwa Era in Pictures has been praised for showing “the complexity of Shōwa society…. capture[ing] the pulse of Japanese life during the tumultuous decades of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s”and condemned as providing a “visual message of subtle or blatant propaganda in support of government-sponsored ideas.”4 

It is interesting to see how the commentary, written by the artist, that accompanied each print in the pre-war releases was softened for the post-war re-issues by Kyoto Hangain.  All references to soldiers being away from home (as Japanese armies were marching through Asia when the series was originally released) or references to Imperial Japan have been stripped away and the commentary becomes innocent, folk-like and appealing to the post-war occupying forces.  (For example, see the prints Women Weavers and Picture Card Show which provide an abridged version of the artist's original commentary and a full transcript of the English text attached to the folders of the post-war re-issued prints.)

1 Keizaburo Yamaguchi gives the publication dates of the post-War series as January 1954 through autumn 1958. (Ukiyo-e Art 16, 1967): 39-42. 
2 "Out of the Dark Valley: Japanese Woodblock Prints and War, 1937-1945," Kendall H. Brown,p. 82 appearing in Impressions, The Journal of the Ukiyo-e Society of America, Inc., Number 23, 2001.
Pacific Asia Museum website http://www.pacificasiamuseum.org/_on_view/exhibitions/2004/occshowa.aspx 
4 Light in Darkness: Women in Japanese Prints of Early Shōwa (1926-1945), Kendall H. Brown, et. al., Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 1996, p. 18.


Print Details
 IHL Catalog #1005
 Title/Description 踏切番 [fumikiriban] - Crossing Guard [number 18]
 Series Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, Series 1 (also seen translated as "Compendium of Occupations in the Shōwa Era" and "Japanese Vocations in Pictures")
Shōwa shokugyō e-zukushi 昭和職業繪盡 (also seen written as 昭和職業絵尽し and
昭和職業), daiishū (第輯)
 Artist 
 Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)
 Signature 
 三造 Sanzō
 Seal
"Sanzō"
 - seals of artist
 Publication Date 1940
 Publisher
Nishinomiya Shoin 西宮 書院
 Edition An original edition
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - light overall toning; stain lower right; glue remnants top corners verso from removal from original folio
 Genre shin hanga
 Miscellaneous originally released by Nishinomiya Shoin as print number 18 in series 1
 Format dai-oban
 H x W Paper 11 1/4 x 15 in. (28.6 x 38.1 cm) 
 H x W Image 10 3/4 x 14 1/2 in. (27.3 x 36.8 cm)
 Collections This Print Himeji City Museum of Art Ⅲ-183-18 (dated "1939~1940年")
 Reference Literature  
last revision:
12/5/2018
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