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KOBAYAKAWA KIYOSHI Japanese Woodblock Print OKICHI OF SHIMODA First Ed. 1932

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KOBAYAKAWA KIYOSHI Japanese Woodblock Print OKICHI OF SHIMODA First Ed. 1932


The Mistress Okichi of Shimoda

Date: 1932 first edition, published by Hasegawa with limitation seal on verso
Size: dai-oban, approx. 17.5" x 13"
Condition: VG, with soiling as shown
Impression: Fine, tight registration, solid key lines, and good surface texture
Color: VG, somewhat soiled but not faded or toned, deep saturated color and bleed through to verso

Kobayakawa Kiyoshi is best known his woodblock prints of Japanese women. Born in Hakata, a town in the Fukuoka Province of Kyushu, Kiyoshi was one of many artists who studied with Kaburagi Kiyokata, the famous painter and print designer. Kiyoshi entered Kiyokata's school at age twenty and probably knew Kiyokata's other students including Shinsui, Hasui and Kotondo. Unfortunately, little is known about Kiyoshi's life compared to those other print designers. During the 1920's and 1930's, he exhibited Nihonga (Japanese-style) paintings at several exhibitions including the Kyodokai and the Imperial Academy Exhibition. In 1923, he contributed a print design to the series, "Complete Collection of Chikamatsu". This was probably Kiyoshi's first experience designing woodblock prints. Beginning in 1930, Kiyoshi began designing a series of six bijin prints which he called "Modern Fashionable Styles" (Kindai jisei sho). These prints were carved by Tadano Shichinosuke and printed by Ono Tomisaburo. Kiyoshi designed thirteen prints in all, twelve of which were exhibited at the 1936 Toledo Exhibition. In addition to his six self-published prints, three were published by Hasegawa, three by Ensendo (Takamizawa) and one by Watanabe Shozaburo. Kiyoshi was awarded the special rank of Tokusen for his 1933 print, The Geisha Ichimaru. He died in April 1948 at Ikegami, Tokyo. -- excerpted from

According to the legend, Okichi, who was born in Shimoda in 1841, was a geisha of 17 years old when the US consulate, Townsend Harris, saw her leaving a bathhouse. Negotiations between American and Japanese officials were not going well at the time, and Japanese government officials believed that if Okichi were made Harris' mistress, the negotiations would go better. They began to pressure Okichi into becoming Harris' mistress. One of the reasons that she resisted was that she was in love with a man named Tsurumatsu, a ship's carpenter. The officials offered to make Tsurumatsu a samurai if he would "step aside." Finally, after much pressure, Okichi agreed, and negotiations were concluded between American and Japanese officials. She lived with Harris for a time, but after he left Japan, the people of Shimoda shunned her, calling her "Tojin Okichi" (Barbarian Okichi). This caused her great unhappiness, and she began drinking heavily. Later she lived in Kyoto and Mishima for a time and finally returned to Shimoda. She ran a restaurant called Anchokuro (see below) but it lost money due to poor management. She committed suicide in 1892 at the age of 51 by drowning herself near Shimoda. Later, a book was written about her, and a movie was made from it.
This is the legend. According to historians, however, much of the story is not true. Okichi, along with another young woman, was a housekeeper for Harris for a short time. The rest of the story developed was developed by local gossips andhas been kept alive in museums and temples in Shimoda.


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