Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎Watanabe Nobukazu (c.1872-1944)‎ > ‎

Ueno Park, Illustration of the Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting and Ueno Park, Congratulatory Celebration for the Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City

 

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Ueno Park, Illustration of the Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting

by Nobukazu Watanabe, date unknown


IHL Cat. #609


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Ueno Park, Congratulatory Celebration for the

Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City

by Nobukazu Watanabe, 1899

IHL Cat. #901


About These Prints

Being high volume commercial enterprises with small profit margins, Meiji-era publishers reused, on occasion, existing woodblock designs to illustrate different events.  In the case of the above almost identical prints, picturing Emperor Meiji, Empress Shōken and, possibly, the governor of Tokyo arriving via royal carriage at a celebration in Ueno Park, one was issued in 1899 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of moving the capital of Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo and the other was issued in celebration of an annual meeting (the year of which is uncertain) of the Japanese Red Cross Society.

A comparison of the two prints, as shown below, reveals different title cartouches (as one would expect), differences within the publisher seal, differences in two of the banners on the left panel and, most strikingly, the overprinting in purple of the likenesses of the emperor and empress on the print commemorating an annual meeting of the Japanese Red Cross Society.  

For more prints displaying the comings and goings of the royal couple see the article Prints of the Emperor Meiji and Empress Haruko.

title cartouche
 
Ueno Park
Illustration of the Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting
上野公園
 日本赤十字社總會之図

Ueno Park 
Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City
上野公園
園奠都三十年祭祝賀會

publisher seal of Hasegawa Tsunejirō
 
Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting
Note that the date (year 年, month , day ) of printing (印刷), shown in rightmost column, is left blank and the date of issuance (交付) in the column to the left of the printing date is given as 4th month, 1st day, as in the publisher's seal shown to the right.

 Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City
Note the printing (印刷) date of Meiji 32 (1899), 3rd month, 23rd day in the rightmost column and, to its left, the date of issuance (付) of Meiji 32, 4th month, 1st day.

emperor and empress

 Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting
Why are the emperor and empress veiled with this overprinting?
emperor and empress

 Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City

banner change

 Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting
white banner is blank.
red banner reads:
 "commander-in-chief ?"
大元帥?

 Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City
white banner reads:
"festival celebrating 30 years" 
三十年祭


 



banner change
 Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting
"Japanese Red Cross Society..."
日本赤十字社...
 Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City
"festival celebrating 30 years" 
三十年祭
 


The Print Ueno Park, Illustration of the Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting

While the Japanese Red Cross Society's general meetings attracted tens of thousands of participants, as can be seen in the postcards below, and would have provided an excellent opportunity to sell large numbers of prints, I have come to the conclusion that this collection's print was never released for sale, at least in this print's state which lacks a date of printing in the publisher's seal and has a strange overprinting of the royal couple's likenesses.  In looking at the historical records1, I can find no record that the Emperor ever personally attended any meetings or celebrations of the Japanese Red Cross held in Ueno Park, although the Empress is recorded as having attended the Society's general meetings numerous times - 1889 at the Third General Meeting, 1890 at the Fourth General Meeting, 1892 at the Sixth General Meeting, 1896 at the Eighth General Meeting, 1898 at the Ninth General Meeting and 1901 at the Tenth General Meeting.  It is hard to imagine, given the revered status of the emperor and empress, that this print with its overprinting of the royal couple's likenesses would have been offered for sale.

 
1900 - 11th General Meeting greeting of the Empress
日本赤十字社 第11回総会 閑院宮妃殿下の挨拶
Source: website of pocketbooks japan.com
 
undated postcard - General Meeting at Shikijou hibiyakouen
東京 日本赤十字社総会 式場 日比谷公園

Source: website of pocketbooks japan.co

1 Including the Society's own The History of the Red Cross Society of Japan, published in 1919, which assiduously recorded any appearances at the Society's meetings of the emperor and empress, and the online records from the Japan Weekly Mail, which also recorded public appearances of the royal couple.


The Print Ueno Park, Congratulatory Celebration for the Thirty-year Festival of the Capital City

On April 10, 1898 a series of celebrations, private and public, were held in Tokyo to commemorate and celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the transfer of the capital from Japan to Tokyo.  The Association for the 30th Anniversary, headed by Viscount Okabe the then Governor of Tokyo, tasked with the job of organizing and promoting the celebrations wrote "our Tokyo now competes in its grandeur with London and Paris, the great cities of the world."1 The emperor and empress attended both private events in their palace and the public celebration held in Ueno Park pictured in this print, as described in the book Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan.   

In 1898, Tokyo’s citizens celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of Japan’s capital at Tokyo with the “greatest festival since the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution.”  The occasion itself was splendid.  The central ceremony took place in a specially constructed pavilion located on the Palace Plaza.  Its highlight was an appearance of the emperor and empress, with an extolment of their virtues and praise for the establishment of the capital at Tokyo.  Following this, various groups with moving displays paraded across the plaza and through the city, providing entertainment and articulating the significance of the event in more spectacular form.  Some paraders masqueraded as members of a daimyo procession or as shogunal ladies-in-waiting.  They evoked memories of the glorious days of the feudal lords in Edo.  Others among them gave a more nationalistic, even jingoistic tone to the event.  Two thousand marchers dressed as sailors pulled floats depicting a cannon and a warship.  Still another group pulled a float carrying a figure of Yamato Takeru, the legendary military hero and imperial price.  Comic storytellers (rakugoka), with obvious reference to Japan’s victory in the 1894-95 war with China, presented their rendering of the Peach Boy (Momotarou) legend; after squirming out of a gigantic peach, their hero Momotarou went on to conquer Demon Island and returned gloriously home with war treasures.

Tokyo’s citizens did not limit their celebrating to the Palace Plaza as they put up arches, tori (shrine archways), and a variety of displays throughout the city…. At Ueno Park, the second site for the festival, the special attractions included a new monument commemorating the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution and a huge fireworks display.2


The April 20th, 1898 issue of the English language magazine The Far East gave the following first-hand account of events:

The tenth of March [sic, should read April], 1898, will be kept as a red letter day for us and is worth our while to remember, for on this day, we had the most remarkable exhibition of the optimistic side of Japanese character. That the Japanese is not always subject to maudlin sentimentality, we learned on this occasion.  Projectors had been busily engaged since a few weeks before, to call the attention of the inhabitants of Tokyo, to the fact that the thirtieth anniversary of the transfer of the Capital might with propriety be celebrated. They had the satisfaction of witnessing that their requests were readily complied with by the whole Tokyo. Early in the morning of the 10th, the rain clouds rolled themselves up and disappeared, and the bright blue spring sky looked as if it had been well washed. In fact, it was a day of matchless spring beauty and ineffable influence. The sun rose cloudlessly on the Sunrise Land. On this auspicious day, their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor and Empress, princes of blood, maids of honour, the flowery nobility of this land, and guests in flowing picturesque costume, the Diplomatic Corps in tight cloth smeared with gold, underneath arches of ever greens, moved into a pavilion which had been built not very far from the palace, by the people of Tokyo for the special purpose of receiving honored guests. As the Imperial carriage came out of the palace, the weired [sic] strains of the national hymns of Japan were sung by lisping school children who led by their teachers, and waving their banners, gathered in front of the palace. It was a sublime moment when the Emperor arrayed in his Imperial costume, stood before nearly ten thousand people who represented Tokyo, and condescended to receive an address of congratulation from a few leading representatives. The people stood face to face before the Emperor! Well might old folks shed tears at this extraordinary privilege! Ceremony being ended, the Emperor returned to his palace amidst the loud acclamation of "Banzai, Banzai " — (long live the Emperor), leaving his loyal subjects to amuze themselves.

The whole Tokyo presented itself metamorphosed. Storytellers as becoming to their profession represented the scene of a little peaching story which little folks of Japan is never get weary of listening as it is told by their grandmas. The race between a hare and a tortoise was quite instructive. The Daimyo -procession reminded us of old days and presented a striking contrast to the things of new Japan. Tents were pitched in several places. The gun went off. It was twelve. Boxes of luncheon were opened. Bottles of beer were circulated. The clattering of knives and forks was heard or all sides. Tall shining silk hats and tailed coats rustled each other. What a contrast to a cleanly shaved Daimyou with a top-knot on his head! While we were thus keeping wolf at door, fire works in rapid succession went off within the distance of a stone throw from us. At three o'clock in the after-noon, the whole crowd began to move away from the palace ground for the Ueno park. Passing through the street in a regular procession, they reached the park where the amuzement of much the same kind as that I have been speaking went on till night. Both the high and the low; the rich as well as the poor took part in this remarkable festival.3


1 Japanese Capitals in Historical Perspective: Place, Power and Memory in Kyoto, Edo and Tokyo, edited by Nicholas Fiévé, Paul Waley, Routledge, 2002, p. 240-241.
2
Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan, T. Fujitani, University of California Press, 1998, p. 34-35.
3 The Far East (An Exponent of Japanese Thoughts and Affairs), Vol. III. No. 27, April 20, 1898, The Nation's Friend Publishing Co., Tokyo, Japan.

PowerPoint Presentation Notes from 1-31-2017 Presentation

Illustration of the Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting, date unknown
Ueno Park, Congratulatory Celebration - 30-Year Festival of the Capital City, April 1, 1899


Meiji-era publishers often reused existing woodblock designs to illustrate different events. In the case of these almost identical prints we see the emperor and empress and, possibly, the governor of Tokyo arriving via royal carriage at a celebration in Ueno Park. The top print portrays one of the annual Japanese Red Cross Society celebrations which drew massive crowds and the bottom illustrates the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the moving of the capital from Kyoto to Tokyo. In addition to different titles, the wording on several of the banners has been altered to fit the print title and, for an unknown reason, the likenesses of the emperor and empress in the carriage have been overprinted in purple on the top design.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 #609, #901
 Title or Description  #609 - Ueno Park, Illustration of the Japanese Red Cross Society General Meeting
 上野公園日本赤十字社總會之図
 #901 - Ueno Park, Congratulatory Celebration for the Thirty-year Festival of the  Capital City 
 上野公園奠都三十年祭祝賀會
 Artist  Watanabe Nobukazu (1872-1944)
 Signature  Motome ni ōjite Yōsai
 Seal  yōsai
 Publication Date  #609 - unknown; - month and day of intended release of the print is given as April 1st, but year is not shown.  (See publisher's seal below.)
 #901 - April 1, 1899
 Publisher
 Hasegawa Tsunejirō 長谷川常治郎 - see images of seals on both prints above.  [Marks: pub. ref. 469]
 Impression  #609 - good
 #901 - good
 Colors  #609 - excellent
 #901 - excellent
 Condition  #609 - excellent
 #901 - good: three panels joined and backed; trimmed to image
 Genre  ukiyo-e; kaika-e
 Miscellaneous   
 Format  vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 #609 - 14 1/2 x 9 5/8 in. (36.8 x 24.4 cm) each panel
 #901 - 14 x 27 3/4 in. (35.6 x 70.5 cm) entire triptych
 Literature

 Collections This Print

Comments