Abalone Divers in Ise Province from the series Dai Nippon Bussan Zue (Products of Greater Japan)


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Abalone Divers in Ise Province

from the series Dai Nippon Bussan Zue

(Products of Greater Japan)

by Utagawa Hiroshige III, 1877

Making Stretched Dried Abalone in Ise Province from the series Dai Nippon Bussan Zue (Products of Greater Japan)

IHL Cat. #1482

About This Print

One of 118 prints in the series Dai Nippon Bussan Zue (Products of Greater Japan)issued in August 1877 to coincide with the opening of Japan’s first National Industrial Exposition (Naikoku Kangyō Hakurankai) held in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, depicting women divers (ana) bringing abalone (awabi) up to waiting boats in Ise Bay. Cave ruins containing tools the divers used for peeling abalone from the sea bed go back 3,000 years and there are written records of women divers dating to the year 927.  

A 1918 United States Department of Commerce report on shell fisheries described the harvesting of abalone by women divers, as follows:
In the shallower waters the mollusks are plucked from the rocks by Japanese women divers, called “ama,” who, divested of practically all clothing, dive down to the rocks, search among the weeds for the awabi, and separate them from the rocks to which they are adhering with a short, broad knife, before the mollusks have a chance to pull the shell down. The operation requires considerable skill, and is invested with some danger, as the awabi is extremely muscular and if the fingers or feet of the diver happen to become caught between the shell of the mollusk and the rock the diver is sure to be drowned before help can reach her.1

The artist based many of his designs on designs that appeared in the 1799 book Nihon Sankai Meisan Zue (Famous Sea and Land Products in Japan), leaving some question whether everything Hiroshige III portrayed in the series was truly the "state of the art" in 1877 when the series was issued. (Although for many activities pictured, things wouldhave looked much the same in 1877 as in 1799.) In many cases, the information in the scroll is also copied from the earlier work.

click on image to enlarge
Illustration of abalone divers in Ise Province from Nihon Sankai Meisan Zue (Famous Sea and Land Products in Japan), 1799

Ise Province (伊勢国 Ise no kuni) was a province of Japan in the area of Japan that is today includes most of modern Mie Prefecture. Ise bordered on Iga, Kii, Mino, Ōmi, Owari, Shima, and Yamato Provinces. Its abbreviated form name was Seishū (勢州).2

Multiple Editions (Variant Printings)

At least three variant printings (editions) were made of this series.  Each variant printing uses a different colored cartouche containing the series' title, either red, green or rainbow-colored.  Different colored borders were also used and variances in the use of colors and shading are present in the three editions.

Transcription of Scroll

Source: with thanks to Yajifun http://yajifun.tumblr.com/

大日本物産圖會 伊勢國鮑採之圖 三代目歌川広重 1877年

“伊勢の國 和浦 御座浦 大野の三ヶ所に鮑(アハビ)をとり二見がうら北塔世にて鮑(ノシ)を製す あハびをとるハ必ず女海人の業とす伹シ女ハ呼吸(コキウ)長き故也 沖ふかく出るに親属を具してふねをこがせ腰に小網袋を付て海ていにいり岩につきたる鮑を篦にて不意におこし腰につけて泛むなり海にしづむハ五尋より十ひろ十五尋をかきりとす深きところハこしに縄を付てしつむ也”

1 “Shellfisheries and the production of buttons” from CommerceReports No. 49, United States Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce.
2 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ise_Province

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description AbaloneDivers in Ise Province
 伊勢国鮑採之図 Ise no kuni awabi tori no zu
 Dai Nippon Bussan Zue 大日本物産図会 (Products of Greater Japan)
 Artist Utagawa Hiroshige III (1842–1894)
 廣重筆 Hiroshige hitsu in bottom right margin (trimmed on this print)
 Seal none
 Publication Date 1877 (Meiji 10) 
Ōkura Magobei 大倉孫兵衛 (Kin'eido; 1843-1921) [Marks: pub. ref. 627]
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - centerfold reinforced by tape on verso
 Genre nishiki-e; kaika-e
 Format chuban
 H x W Paper 
 6 13/16 x 9 3/8 in. (17.1 x 24.9 cm)
 H x W Image
 6 3/8 x 9 in.  (16.2 x 22.9 cm)

 Collections This Print
 Waseda University Library Archives 01_04265_0001