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Night of Shinjuku from the series Scenes of Last Tokyo


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Night of Shinjuku

from the series Scenes of Last Tokyo

by Maekawa Senpan, 1945

Gion Matsuri from the series Picture Notes on Native Customs of Japan

IHL Cat. #619

About This Print

This print was originally issued in 1931 (see reference image below) as part of the series One Hundred Views of the New Tokyo (Shin Tokyo Hyakkei) and re-issued in 1945 from newly cut blocks for the series Scenes of Last Tokyo. It is my favorite print in the series with the lone figure cutting a Bogart-like pose and two shadowy figures in the car. 

Source: Terrific Tokyo – A Panorama in Prints from the 1860s to the 1930s, Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, Worcester Art Museum, 1998, p. 48
Shinjuku is today one of Tokyo’s major entertainment, shopping, and transportation centers.  Until the middle of the Meiji period it lay outside the city.  It was annexed only in 1920 after the period of extraordinary growth that followed the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).  The heavy damage it suffered in the fires that came with the 1923 earthquake made it possible to rebuild the area completely.  Mitsukoshi opened a department store there in the 1924 that was quickly followed by others.  Shinjuku, which during the Edo period had been famous for its horse manure, quickly became sophisticated.  By 1930 it was second only to Ginza as a retail-shipping area.  During certain evening hours it may have been even busier than Ginza, for it had a bawdy and busy pleasure quarter.  Maekawa Senpan depicts his contemporary man, arms on hips, surveying this modern quarter.  To the artist’s 1931 viewers the words “Night at Shinjuku” meant a night on the town, with drinking and easy women.  It still carried the same message in 1945.

Source: British Museum website  (also appearing in Japanese Prints During the Allied Occupation 1945-1952, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 2003, P. 61.)
As in Factory Street at Fukagawa, Maekawa re-used a design done in 1931 for the series 'One Hundred Views of New Tokyo' with new blocks, probably cut by himself. The rich dark-blue of the night sky in the original version has been replaced by grey, investing the scene with an appropriately post-war bleakness. At the time of the first series, however, Shinjuku had become known as the most go-ahead and 'modern' of Tokyo districts (See Seidensticker, Edward, 'Tokyo Rising: The City Since the Great Earthquake', New York, 1990, pp. 50-53, for an account of the post-earthquake rise of Shinjuku), and had begun its rise to rival the older centre of the city around Ginza and Marunouchi. Maekawa's cartoonist's eye seems even then to have noticed something ironically lonely about the atmosphere of a place with thousands of bars.

Print in folder with label as issued in 1945
1945 folio label located under the mat window
新宿の夜    前川千帆
Night of Shinjuku    Maekawa Senpan

Maekawa Senpan, Night Scene in Shinjuku, 1931
from the series One Hundred Views of the New Tokyo (Shin Tokyo Hyakkei)
collection of Carnegie Museum of Art, 1029249

Print Details
 IHL Catalog #619
 Title Night View of Shinjuku (新宿夜景 Shinjuku yakei) appearing in upper right margin.  Note slight difference from the title given on the folio's label Night of Shinjuku 新宿の夜 
 Series Scenes of Last Tokyo [also seen translated as Recollections of Tokyo]
 東京回顧図会 Tokyo kaiko zue
 Maekawa Senpan (1888-1960)
 Seal 帆 artist's Han seal (lower left corner)
 Publication Date Originally published in 1931 as Night Scene in Shinjuku as part of the series Shin Tokyo Hyakkei (One Hundred Views of New Tokyo) and republished in December 1945 from recut blocks
 Edition December 1945
 Publisher Fugaku Shuppansha 富岳出版社, Tokyo, Uemura Masurō 上村益郎 publisher 
 Printer Hirai Kōichi 平井孝一 
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent
 Genre sosaku-hanga (creative print)
 Format chuban
 H x W Paper 8 x 11 in. (20.3 x 27.9 cm)
 H x W Image 7 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (18.1 x 24.1 cm)
 Collections This Print Los Angeles County Museum of Art M.81.267.26; Museum of Fine Arts Boston 65.1091; The British Museum 1980,1227,0.18.15; Carnegie Museum of Art 89.28.709.7; Mead Art Museum at Amherst College 2008.63.15; Portland Art Museum 1996.31.2o; Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S1995.118.12; Worcester Art Museum, Members’ Council Fund, 1987.79.11
 Reference Literature The Artist's Touch, The Craftsman's Hand: Three Centuries of Japanese Prints from the Portland Art Museum, Maribeth Graybill, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, 2011, p. 303; Terrific Tokyo A Panorama in Prints: from the 1860s to the 1930sElizabeth de Sabato Swinton, Worcester Art Museum. 1998 p. 48, pl. 18; Made in Japan – The Postwar Creative Print Movement, Alicia Volk, Milwaukee Art Museum, 2005, p. 35; Modern Japanese Prints: The Twentieth Century, Amanda T. Zehnder, Carnegie Museum of Art, 2009, p. 106; Japanese Prints During the Allied Occupation 1945-1952, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 2003, P. 61, Pl. 46.