Ginko, More Storytelling - Bando Shinsui as Saito Kenmotsu

Ginko Adachi (active 1874 - 1897) Bando Shinsui as Saito Kenmotsu, from the series More Storytelling, 1874. Oban.

This print is peculiarly appropriate in a show about the art of the Meiji, for it commemorates one of the convulsive moments for the emergent Japan and curiously, celebrates a conspirator opposed to the enlightenment of the New Age. Ginko, in an early and uncharacteristic style, pictures the samurai Saito Kenmotsu in the snow outside Sakuradamon Gate at Edo Castle in 1860. The scene is the assassination of Japan’s leading moderniser Li Naosuke, the principal signatory to the 1858 Treaty of Amity and Commerce which committed Japan to open trade with the rest of the world.

Opposed by traditional samurai elements, a conspiracy of seventeen Mito Ronin was organised to assassinate Li in his palanquin. Kenmotsu was one of the conspirators and died from his wounds in the snow outside the palace. It is curious that Ginko should commemorate the incident in this way, but like so many others at this turbulent time he went on to embrace the Meiji government and was an enthusiastic artist of the sino-Japanese war.

This is a fine print and from a rare series by this artist better known for his modern and war reportage. The print owes a great deal to Kunichika in style, although curiously the subject matter and the design are derived almost completely from an 1870’s portrait of the same subject by Yoshitaki. The print is full size, in fine condition with hand applied, splashed gofun representing the snow. For more information on the background to the incident please see our blogpost 13 Assassins - or maybe 17? on the subject.

Published by Gusoku-ya, signed Oju Ginko hitsu.

25cm x 36cm.