Andon 81

January 2007

Andon 81

EDITORIAL: In 1862 shogun Tokugawa Iemochi was summoned by Emperor Kōmei to his palace to discuss the policy towards the 'barbarians' that had arrived in Japan after the enforced opening of the country by Commander Perry in 1853. For the first time since 1634 a shogun travelled from Edo (Tokyo) along theTōkaidō to Kyoto. Iemochi, just sixteen years old, was accompanied by an entourage of about 3,000 foot soldiers, cavalry and gunmen. Officially it was forbidden to issue prints of contemporary events related to the ruling Tokugawa family, but in spite of this threat a consortium of fwenty-four publishers decided to publish a series of prints immortalising this unique event. Andreas Marks has made an in-depth study of this series. Publishing woodblock prints was a risky business. Publishers had to pay in advance for the materials and labour involved (artists, block cutters and printers) and there was always the risk that the authorities would be offended and decided to confiscate the whole edition, or that the public would prefer the prints of a fellow publisher. Consequently, publishers came up with creative solutions to lower the production costs. One example is the re-use of old blocks by inserting wood plugs with recut designs (ireki). In this way the face of one actor could be replaced by that of another, leaving the rest of the design unaltered. John Fiorillo writes about an interesting ireki example, and wonders why the face of the actor Nakamura Fukusuke l has been replaced by another image of the same actor's face. From carving woodblocks to carving netsuke seems a small step, but in reality they were worlds apart. That is probably also the use in our Society, where members collect either woodblock prints or netsuke. For those interested we have an article written by Margrit Reuss and Farideh Fekrsanati who discuss the various materials netsuke can be made of and how they can be preserved. You will be surprised to learn that using white cotton gloves is not the best way to handle your precious netsuke.

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