Kunichika, Mirror of the Flowering of Customs and Manners

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) A Mirror of the Flowering of Customs and Manners, 1878. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

This print by Kunichika and its fellow on this page illustrate how far the revolution of thinking and modernity have travelled in little more than eighty years. The series chronicles  the clash of styles and influence of western sensibility and traditional Japanese manners. Commentaries on modern manners are included in the large square cartouche which itself is shown in a gold, traditional western picture frame. Kunichika often includes modern imports such as parasols and english text books as accessories. The series title Kaika Ninjo Kagami also hints at modernity, the word kaika, can mean civilisation or enlightment; and according to Newland, even meaning Mirror of the Enlightened Mind.

Kunichika is showing us the changes that have occured after the actual revolution of the 1860’s. He, like Yoshitoshi, remained equivocal about the Meiji revolution and there is often criticism of the modernisation of Japan buried within his work. In this print, we see a nicely drawn female who evokes very much Yoshitoshi’s drawings of women a decade later. She is most likely a prostitute, leaning on a rail regarding poem slips or messages, just visible on the left of the print. Her hair is dishevelled and like the woman in the companion piece, she is holding a pipe.

A nice print, full size with margins, colour and impression are very good as is condition.

37 x 26 cm.