SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.18 (2022)

Basic Study on Picture Books Themed
on Taikōki in the Mid-19th Century

ITO Miyuki

Department of Japanese Literature,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

kiritsukebon, picture book, musha-e, Taikōki, Toyotomi Hideyoshi

This paper presents a basic study on picture books published around the mid-19th century themed on Taikōki (biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi), in particular, picture books called kiritsukebon.

Kiritsukebon refers to inexpensive picture books for the mass audience published from the end of the Edo period to the early Meiji era. As the popularity of Taikōki-themed works grew from approximately 1864 to 1872, kiritsukebon themed on Taikōki were published by many booksellers. However, there are many unclear points regarding the actual state of the production of Taikōki-themed works, their distribution, and how they were accepted as they were developed in various media. This paper examines the bibliography of Taikōki-themed kiritsukebon and picture books with the aim of elucidating the overall picture of Taikōki-themed works in the mid-19th century as an ultimate goal and analyzes these works by publication year and bookseller to clarify the characteristics of their forms and styles.

From 1848 to1859, works in various form were produced by unknown booksellers, as well as by Kikuya Kozaburo. They were generally made in the typical kiritsukebon style, and the text is a mixture of kanji and kana. One picture is printed on every one to four double-page spread. From 1860 to 1870, Taikōki-themed works in a typical kiritsukebon style were published by Yamaguchiya Tobei, Yoshidaya Bunzaburo and Fujiokaya Keijiro. Odawaraya Yashichi also published picture books in the meimeiden style (a format with a portrait and brief biography of a famous warrior on each double-page spread). Starting around 1865, more books were published with pictures on all double-page spreads by booksellers such as Iseya Shonosuke, Bunkyudo, Yamatoya Kihei, Kagaya Kichibei, Maruya Tetsujiro, and Oshimaya Den-emon. It is confirmed from exhaustive bibliographic research that kiritsukebon was published by Bunsheido, and a full-page colored picture book by Fujiya Kikujiro was sold at booksellers in Kyoto and Osaka.

The forms and styles of Taikōki-themed works from the end of the Edo period to the early Meiji era are diverse, and it is difficult to find uniformity as a single genre. It is observed that the number of pages of each work tended to decrease as the serialization of war stories and revenge stories started to become more popular starting in about 1865. In the Meiji era, booksellers published more kiritsukebon with pictures on all double-page spreads. These works were drawn by Utagawa Yoshitora and his school of ukiyo-e painters under the influence of Ehon Taikōki (Picture Books of Hideyoshi, by Takeuchi Kakusai, 1797-1802). The kiritsukebon style is found even after 1877. Nishiki-e themed on Taikōki were also published around this time, indicating the widespread popularity of Taikōki-themed works.