Yoshitora Utagawa, Seven Lucky Gods, Kakemono-e


Artist: Yoshitora Utagawa (act.1836-1882)
Title: Seven Lucky Gods
Publisher: Fujiokaya Keijiro
Date: 1866
Size: (T)24.6 x 36.3 (B) 24.6 x 36.6 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Kakemono-e is a format created from two oban-size sheets, one above the other in a vertical diptych, and its proportions resemble those of hanging scrolls (kakemono). Kakemono-e popular in the first half of 19th century mostly depict beautiful women (bijinga) or actor prints (yakusha-e).


Shichifukujin (The Seven Gods of Good Fortune) are frequently shown riding in a treasure boat (Takarabune), which is an auspicious symbol, especially found during New Year celebrations. The seven deities have independent origins in Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto, and have been an important part of Japanese culture since the 15th century (Muromachi era). Although most of these characters have a courtly or scholarly appearance, they were popularised by farmers, merchants and artisans. Consequently, their treasures are practical things like rice, fish and cash, rather than gold or jewels.

Yoshitora Utagawa

Yoshitora Utagawa was a woodblock print artist active towards the end of the 19th century in Japan. Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), neither his date of birth nor date of death is known. Yoshitora was a pupil of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1798-1861), however, he was expelled due to artistic differences. He went on his own path and changed his artist name to Mosai, producing prints of warriors, kabuki actors, beautiful women, and foreigners in particular (Yokohama-e).

The limited contact with the West imposed by the Japanese regime in the Edo period (1603-1868) created endless curiosity that artists were eager to satisfy, although the situations they imagined were sometimes far from being accurate. It is evident from these prints that the Japanese were fascinated by the clothing, the strange habits and the occupations of the foreigners.

For much of the Edo period Japan adopted a sakoku (closed country) policy. Sakoku was a system in which strict regulations were placed on commerce and foreign relations by the shogunate and certain feudal domains. Trade was limited, except for the port of Nagasaki where the Dutch and Chinese were the only ones allowed to operate. In 1859 the port of Yokohama was opened to foreigners, and ukiyo-e artists, primarily of the Utagawa school, produced hundreds of woodblock print designs in response to a general curiosity about the newly arrived visitors.

Yoshitora was a leading designer of these prints and he also produced a number of landscapes derived from Western engraving. In the Meiji period that began in 1868 he also worked for newly established newspapers.

More Information
Print FormatKakemono-e (Scroll)
ArtistYoshitora Utagawa
SubjectMale & Female, Ghosts & Religion
Dimensions(T) 24.6 x 36.3, (B) 24.6 x 36.6 cm
Condition ReportDarkened paper. Small misregistration. Small tear in the bottom panel. Pinholes and some stains. 
PublisherFujioka-ya Keijiro