January Sekku Festival


Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) was a disciple of Utagawa ToyokuniⅠ (1769–1825), founder of the Utagawa school. In this work produced in about 1847, Kuniyoshi presents a typical New Year’s scene of the Edo period (1600–1867). In the center of the picture is a large kite with the image of Bodhidharma (also called Daruma), a Zen Buddhist sage of fearsome appearance who was often caricatured in Japan. Children are playing with the kite, around which stand three mothers with children. The pair in the middle is on the way to take the first bath of the year. The pair on the right plays battledore and shuttlecock, and the pair on the left is watching the kites fly. In the distance a merchant draws a cart loaded with the year’s first cargo, with Mount Fuji symbolically looming beyond the cloud. Five annual festivals, Go-Sekku, mark the changing cycle of seasons, and the January Sekku contains the New Year celebrations. Kuniyoshi’s colorful ukiyo-e prints were wildly popular in his day.

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Enshuya Matabei, Edo


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Physical Description

Set of three : woodblock prints, color ; 37 × 25.5 centimeters

Last updated: April 17, 2015