Chikanobu Yoshu, Kemari, The Outer Palace of Chiyoda


Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)
Title: Playing Football (Kemari)
Series: The Outer Palace of Chiyoda
Publisher: Fukuda Hatsuijiro
Date: 1897
Size: (R) 24.6 x 33.9, (C) 24.5 x 33.9, (L) 24.8 x 34.2 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

The Outer Palace of Chiyoda is a companion series to The Inner Palace of Chiyoda. It depicts the life of male members of the royal court and historic scenes from the outside walls of Chiyoda Palace.

A group of noblemen plays the Japanese football game - kemari. It is a non-competitive sport of the court, requiring eight participants who attempt to kick a deer-skin ball (mari) into the air repeatedly without letting it touch the ground.

In the image, watched by the group of samurai on the left, the players wear full flowing robes and court hats, kicking the ball between them. The whole scene is framed by blossoming cherry trees, the sign of spring.

Chikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)

Chikanobu Yoshu was a woodblock print artist from the end of the 19th century. He was one of the most prolific woodblock print artists of this period, working with both traditional subjects, such as actors, courtesans, scenes of famous sites, beautiful women, and with topical subjects, such as war and rebellion. Born into a samurai family in Echigo province, Chikanobu became one of the final, great, ukiyo-e artists aiming to preserve the traditional culture of Japan at a time when the country was becoming rapidly modernised. As a child, he studied Kano style painting. When he moved to Tokyo he studied print design first at the studio of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1797-1861) and later on at that of Kunisada I Utagawa (1786–1865).

The end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) brought a rapid influx of Western values and technologies that influenced many artists of this time, including Chikanobu. As a result, he developed a distinctive personal style blending a close adherence to the traditional technique of ukiyo-e, and occasional western imagery. He designed prints rooted in traditional myths and legends but also kaika-e, prints that documented Japan's modernization, the Emperor Meiji and the imperial court's promotion of that modernization.

Even though Chikanobu’s prints showcase a variety of subjects, due to the wealth of his beauties and court ladies works, it is believed that the customs and events of the imperial family were his favourite subject. Out of these prints, the most well-known series is probably ‘The Inner Palace of Chiyoda’ (‘Chiyoda no O-oku’), which depicts the court life in the palace of the Tokugawa shogunate. Influenced by the rapid changes happening in Japanese society following the Meiji restoration, Chikanobu also produced beauty prints showing ladies in Western clothing, as opposed to kimono. Chikanobu's last works in the early years of the 20th century featured brave samurai and heroic women of Japan's past, models of appropriate behaviour for the future.

More Information
Print FormatChuban
ArtistChikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)
SubjectSamurai & Male, Flowers & Botanical
Size(R) 24.6 x 33.9, (C) 24.5 x 33.9, (L) 24.8 x 34.2 cm
publisherFukuda Kumajiro, Hatsujiro:1874-1898