Mount Fuji and the Goddess

Mount Fuji

“Princess Tatsuta (Tatsuta-hime),” from A Collection of Takehisa Yumeji’s Pictures in Woodblock Print (Takehisa Yumeji mock-hanga she), about 1935. Color woodblock, published by Kyoto Hanga-in (O-Edo edition). The British Museum.

My penfriend, Beckra, who is putting me to shame in the area of snail mail, sent this postcard with a holiday greeting and update on her academic life.  She included this with well wishes for the new year, referencing the Japanese legend that it is a sign of good fortune to come if one dreams of Mount Fuji at the turn of the year.

Beckra also noted “how the woman’s clothing has its own mountain-like monumentality…” I see that. Do you?

I wanted to know more about the print itself, so I did my own mini-research on the print.

The inscription reads:

Last year the rice was dear, and we lacked for our daily food; this year the rice is cheap and the farmers are suffering. For Princess Tatsuta. Poem by Du Fu.

This is from the curator’s comments:

Tatsuta-hime, Shinto goddess of autumn and the harvest, is manifested as one of Yumeji’s svelte modern beauties in a high-waisted kimono with long swinging sleeves, posing before a distant, barren Mt Fuji. The woodblock print is based on a two-fold screen of the same title (Yumeji Kyodo Bijutsukan), painted in 1931, which may have been intended as a pair with ‘Ode to Mt Haruna’ (‘Haruna sanpu’, 1930). This last depicted a similarly dressed woman as Sao-hime, goddess of spring, standing in front of a landscape of Mt Haruna, the site for Yumeji’s planned Institute of Industrial Arts (Sangyo Bijutsu Kenkyujo). Both screens were exhibited at the Shinjuku Mitsukoshi Department Store just before Yumeji went on an extended trip to USA and Europe (May 1931 to September 1933).

The artist is quoted as saying about Princess Tatsuta: ‘She’s the crowning woman of my life. She’s Miss Nippon! (Takahashi Yoji, ‘Bessatsu Taiyo 20: Takehisa Yumeji’ (Autumn 1977), no. 116, p. 105.)’ The inscription is an adaption of lines by the Tang poet Du Fu (712-70), dedicated by Yumeji to Tatsuta-hime, and can be translated as follows: ‘Last year the rice was dear, and we lacked for our daily food; this year the rice is cheap and the farmers are suffering (Takeda Michitaro, ‘et al’. ‘Nihon no meiga 9: Kiyokata, Shoen, Yumeji’, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1977, [Yumeji] no. 20, text p. 97).’ The print is from a posthumous edition.

Smith, Lawrence. ‘The Japanese Print Since 1900’. London, British Museum Press, 1983, no. 63a.

There are many stories packed into this beautiful postcard.


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