The different subgenres of nishiki-e

  • Nishiki-e: or “brocade pictures” is essentially the name given to all multicoloured woodblock prints
    • Ukiyo-e: “floating world pictures” are pictures inspired by the Edo/Tokyo pleasure quarters. The term “floating world” was coined to describe a world of fantasy that takes the participants away from their hum-drum lives.  
      • Yakusha-e: kabuki actor pictures – used as both fan merchandise and also to advertise specific productions and plays.
      • Bijin-ga: “drawings of beautiful women”, usually idealised pictures of courtesans and geishas.
      • Musha-e: “traditional warrior pictures” are images of historic heroes and stories, as opposed to images of modern warfare.
      • Nagasaki-e & Yokohama-e: pictures of inside the Nagasaki & Yokohama trade districts – actually usually images of westerners for a Japanese audience curious to learn about Western culture and fashions.
      • genji-e: pictures depicting scenes from the famous book “The Tales of Genji” (Genji Monogatari) and the various spin-off stories of this world. 
      • Kachō-e: pictures of natural subjects.
      • Sensō-e: modern war pictures, so images relating to the Satsuma or foreign wars 
    • Okubi-e: big-headed prints – usually prints of actors but could also be of girls that showed just the face and shoulders, rather than depicting the whole person. These were fairly rarely produced but have grown in popularity so they are now highly desirable. 
    • Uchiwa-e: art made for hand-fans. Fans were a ubiquitous part of life in Japan and it’s not surprising that people wanted to decorate their fan with pictures of nature or of their favourite actors.
    • Kuchi-e: sentimental frontispieces to romance novels written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 
yakusha-e: Kunichiuka – Sawamura Tanosuke III, Nakamura Shikan IV & Sawamura Tosshō II in the dance “Sanbasō”, staged as the opening performance at the Sawamura-za theatre, from the 4th of the 8th month 1873
Bijin-ga: Kunichika – currently unidentified
Sensō-e: Adachi Ginko – “News of the Kagoshima – The Encirclement” – Major-General Nozu Michitsura fighting with a Shimasu samurai. (Kagoshima shimbun. Kuruma gaeshi senka no zu – 鹿児島新聞 東返戦之圖)
Okubi-e: Kunichika – Sawamura Tosshō II as Keigen Kokino, Onoe Kikugorō V as Kanabōhiki Ume & Nakamura Shikan IV as Tekomae Koma in a mitate entitled “Star actor’s in festival outfits”, from 1870

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