Kobayashi Kiyochika, The journalist Fukuchi Gen'ichirō, a colour woodblock print
Meiji era, AD 1885
This print shows the journalist Fukuchi Gen'ichirō (1841-1906) reporting on the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. It is taken from the series Kyōdō risshi ki ('Self-made Men Worthy of Emulation'). Several artists participated, and the publisher, Matsuki Heikichi, was commended by the government for its noble theme. The print's accompanying text outlines Fukuchi's inspirational life.
The domain of Satsuma in the south-west of Japan was a wealthy one, and had remained largely independent during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868). Samurai of the domain had been prominent in the fall of the shogunate and the establishment of the Meiji government in 1868. However, when their leader Saigō Takamori (1827-77) was discredited they mounted an armed uprising in 1877, which was finally suppressed in September of the same year.
Fukuchi was born in Nagasaki, where he learnt Dutch, and at eighteen went to Edo (modern Tokyo) to learn English. He worked as an interpreter and translator for the shogunate, but his allegiance then changed towards support of the new regime. He was an essayist and playwright as well as journalist. Fukuchi's activities as a war correspondent gained respect for the profession of journalist, and he was granted an audience with the emperor, where he gave a first-hand report of the Satsuma rebellion.
Kiyochika specialized in prints showing the changing appearance of Edo as it was industrialized and Westernized. His works often followed older Ukiyo-e prints in their subject matter, but stylistically he often used Western techniques of perspective and shading.
The signature in the bottom-right reads 'Shinsei Kiyochika' and the seal reads 'Shinsei.'
J. Meech-Pekarik, The world of the Meiji print: (New York, Weatherhill, 1986)