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Picture Card Show from the series Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, Series 1

Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Picture Card Show

print number 11 from the series

Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, series 1

by Wada Sanzō, 1950-1951 (originally 1939-1941)

Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)

IHL Cat. #1542

IHL Cat. #1004

IHL Cat. #983

About This Print

Children and adults gather around a story teller dressed in an official-looking uniform in these three states of the post-war second edition, by the publisher Kyoto Hangain, of the original pre-WWII design published by Nishinomiya Shoin between 1939 and 1941.  As the original publisher Nishinomiya Shoin did, the post-War publisher Kyoto Hangain (the successor business to Nishinomiya Shoin) reprinted particular prints multiple times, resulting in a number of different print states, with minor differences, such as the absence of the print title 紙芝居 as we see on IHL Cat. #983.  Different printings also seemed to have used different papers and colors often varied between printings.

Pre and Post-War Commentaries

As described in Memories of Shōwa: Impressions of Working Life by Wada Sanzō, each print was originally released with an explanatory sheet by Wada in Japanese "containing detailed information and personal insights."1 Some of the accompanying commentaries were also translated into English by "Glenn W. Shaw (1881-1961), a writer and teacher who moved to Japan in 1913."2 

Below are the translated artist commentaries for the first and second editions of the print, which show the shift in political climate after Japan's defeat and occupation.

The below commentary accompanying the 1939-1941 edition, is copied from Memories of Shōwa, as translated by the authors.3 An alternate translation of the third paragraph of Wada's commentary, appearing in brackets, is taken from Light in Darkness: Women in Japanese Prints of Early Shōwa (1926-1945), Kendall H. Brown, et. al., Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 1996.

For another example of the pre and post-War commentaries see Flag Merchant IHL Cat. #1021.

[First Edition, 1939-1941, published by Nishinomiya Shoin]

Picture Card Show

At the street corner the young children are waiting for the picture show storyteller, who performs spoken theater.

When the scene does not change, the children get bored so it is a good technique to offer them sweets while chattering away.

It is only natural that the authorities have recently continued to focus on good guidance for this profession as it should be a part of a system that can be used to foster ideas through a voice on the street.

[alternate translation of above paragraphIt is indeed natural that the authorities have recently been making efforts to lead in the right direction this business [the picture card show] that may well be employed as a valuable organ to … develop their [children’s] thought.]

The curiosity of candy and dialogue and the accompanying monetary compensation is an interesting business relationship.

[Second Edition, 1950-1951, published by Kyoto Hangain]

A Story-teller (Kamishibai)

When he finds a good place for his business on the street,he stops and makes ready the pictures illustrating his stories in the [sic]case on his bicycle.  The he calls out“Come and look! A grand picture show you’ve never seen!” striking the woodenclappers to attract attention.

Soon a crowd of children gather from all directions.  The story-teller is very skilful [sic] intelling the story, immitating [sic] the voices of the various people in thestory.

After the story is over, he sells candies.  A pictorial story-teller is a Pide-piper[sic] of Hamelin in Japan, and the children are like the rats running after thepiper.

Depicted by Sanzo Wada.  Printed by KYOTO-HANGA-IN

1 Memories of Shōwa: Impressions of Working Life by Wada Sanzō, Maureen de Vries and Daphne van der Molen, Nihon no hanga, 2021, p. 14.
2 ibid. 
3 ibid. p. 26.

The Roll of Kamishibai
Source: Flier for presentation by Sharalyn Orbaugh, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, titled “What was sacred in Japan’s “sacred war”?: the boundaries of the sacred and profane in wartime kamishibai”, presented May 11, 2017 at Sophia University.

During Japan’s Fifteen Year War (1931-1945), kamishibai (紙芝居) plays were one of the most widely distributed and frequently accessed media used to transmit propaganda messages about the “sacred war” (聖戦) to audiences in Japan (naichi) and the colonies (gaichi). Originally a street performance art for children that celebrated the earthy and lurid, kamishibai was repurposed by government agencies to address adults as well, and to convey to all its audiences important messages—through illustrations and script—encouraging them to support the war effort. This presentation will analyze the way the concepts of sacred and profane were deployed in the service of political persuasion. 

Print as Originally Issued in 1939  by Nishinomiya Shoin

as originally issued by Nishinomiya Shoin, 1939

A Critical View

Source: 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. 12.

In the introduction to the catalog of the exhibition Light in Darkness: Women in Japanese Prints of Early Shōwa (1926-1945), Dr. Kendall H. Brown comments on Wada's series and specifically this print as follows:

The best examples of these two characteristics [portraying women's jobs in an idealized and romanticized manner] are found in Wada Sanzo’s Occupations of Showa Japan in Pictures, a set of at least forty-eight prints published originally between 1939 and 1942.  The majority of these wartime prints show male occupations but give little sense of Japan’s military involvements or even Japan’s status as a highly industrialized country.  (These characteristics may account for the popularity of the series when reissued after the war.)  Only a few prints show military men, and, not surprisingly, they display soldiers in non-military activities such as relaxing in their bunks or studying.  However, the underlying political function of the series is made explicit in Picture Card Show.  Here a soldier uses a painting, or perhaps a print, to lecture a group of neighborhood children who watch with dutiful attention.  In a commentary issued with the print [as originally issued prior to the War], Wada writes that “It is indeed natural that the authorities have recently been making efforts to lead in the right direction this business [the picture card show] that may well be employed as a valuable organ to…develop their [children’s] thought."

Picture story teller c. 1950s
Picture teller announcing the post-War
new constitution (新憲法)

About the Series "Occupations of Shōwa Japan 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" 

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 Shōwa Japan in Pictures (Shōwa shokugyō e-zukishi), also translated as Occupations of the Shōwa Era in Pictures and 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 Shōwa Japan 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 Shōwa Japan 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 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 #1004, #983, #1542
 Title/Description 紙芝居 [kamishibai] - Picture Card Show, [print number 11]
 Series Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, series 1
 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)
 Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)
 三造 Sanzō
 IHL Cat. #1004
"Sanzō" - seal of artist
 IHL Cat. #983
"Sanzō" - seal of artist
  IHL Cat. #1542
  "Sanzō" - seal of artist
 Publication Date 1950-1951 (originally 1939-1941)
IHL Cat. #1004
Kyoto Hangain

IHL Cat. #983
hanmoto Kyoto Hangain - suru Ōno
版元 京都版画院 摺大野
[publisher Kyoto Hangain - printed by Ōno]

 IHL Cat. #1542
hanmoto Kyoto Hangain
版元 京都版画院
[publisher Kyoto Hangain]

 Edition second edition
 First published by Nishinomiya shoin in 1939-1941, this collection's three states of the second edition were published c. 1950 from re-cut blocks, as it is believed that all the pre-WWII woodblocks were destroyed in Allied air raids in 1945. It is believed that all post-WWII impressions by Kyoto Hangain were made from re-cut blocks.
 Printer Ōno 大野 (see publisher's seal above)
 Impression IHL Cat. #1004 - excellent   IHL Cat. #983 - excellent   IHL Cat. #1542 -excellent
 Colors IHL Cat. #1004 - excellent   IHL Cat. #983 - excellent  IHL Cat. #1542 - excellent
 Condition IHL Cat. #1004: fair - multiple vertical folds, a few spots of dirt and foxing; mounting remnants top verso from removal from original folio
 IHL Cat. #983: good - stains in upper right of image; paper flaw to left of signature and bottom margin; mounting remnants from top verso from removal from original folio
 IHLCat.#1542: excellent - minor handling creases
 Genre shin hanga
 Format dai-oban
 H x W Paper IHL Cat. #1004: 10 7/8 x 15 7/8 in. (27.6 x 40.3 cm) 
 IHL Cat. #983: 11 1/4 x 15 1/2 in. (28.6 x 39.4 cm)
 IHL Cat. #1542: 11 5/8 x 16 1/8 in. (29.5 x 40.1 cm)
 Collections This Print Himeji City Museum of Art Ⅲ-183-11 (dated "1939~1940年")
 Reference Literature 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. 13, cat. 11; Memories of Shōwa: Impressions of Working Life by Wada Sanzō, Maureen de Vries and Daphne van der Molen, Nihon no hanga, 2021
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