- Museum number
Colour woodblock chuban print, mitate-e. Parody of 'Narihira's Journey to the East': young couple pausing on journey to admire Mt Fuji in distance across Suruga Bay; man with hand-coverings and head scarf, and flat travelling hat on his back; one sleeve of his striped outer kimono shrugged off; woman seated sidesaddle on pack-horse, wearing elegant kimono with long, flowing sleeves; both figures holding pipes. Signed.
- Production date
Height: 26.70 centimetres
Width: 19.60 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Clark 2001
A young couple pause on their journey to admire Mt Fuji in the distance across Suruga Bay. He is dressed for the road, with hand-coverings and head scarf, and flat travelling hat on his back. In his exertions he has shrugged off one sleeve of his striped outer kimono. She, on the other hand, seated sidesaddle on a pack-horse, wears an elegant kimono with long, flowing sleeves that would be most impractical for travel. Both figures hold pipes. This slight artificiality about the scene - a sense that something is perhaps being staged or acted out - is a clue, as so often in Harunobu's prints, that this is a so-called 'parody picture' ('mitate-e'). It is the typical conceit of such compositions that figures in modern dress are shown in situations that allude to a famous episode from Chinese or Japanese literature or history. Cat. 1 shows the standard iconography of 'Narihira's Journey to the East' ('Azuma-kudari'), as drawn by an anonymous book illustrator in 1608. Harunobu has substituted the young woman for the courtier on horseback and the youth for his retinue. It is not possible to say specifically which pre-existing 'picture' of 'Journey to the East' he had in mind when Harunobu came up with his playful version, if indeed it was necessary for him to have one single model for such a well-known theme. Equally well, it could have been another, earlier Ukiyo-e artist's own parody of the theme that he adapted. A different composition of the same parody subject is known by Harunobu, a horizontal 'chuban' print with a cast of two young men and two young women (Margaret O. Gentles, 'The Clarence Buckingham Collection of Japanese Prints, vol. II: Harunobu...', Art Institute of Chicago, 1965, [Harunobu] no. 197), which is more explicit in its reference, including in a printed inscription Narihira's famous poem in praise of Fuji (quoted in cat. 1).
Indeed, Nakamachi Keiko has recently proposed that the two Harunobu designs contain a complex hybrid of 'mitate' references, relating also to the Hagoromo legend, the 'joruri' puppet play 'Teika', and a contemporary Kabuki reworking of the original Ise 'monogatari' story (Nakamachi Keiko, "Ukiyo-e Memories of 'Ise Monogatari'", ' Impressions' 22 (2000), pp. 54-85, especially pp. 61-7).
Binyon, Laurence. 'A Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Woodcuts in the British Museum'. London, British Museum, 1916, [Harunobu] no. 25.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001, 11 May-29 Jul, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Azuma-kudari (Narihira's Journey to the East)
- Acquisition date
- Registration number