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.


The Indigo Buntings of Academia

I stole a moment yesterday from all the “things to do” to “thin out” the stationery and planner pouches I carry to work with me. All the pretty things were spread out on the coffee table. Among them were at least seven letters to which I must respond soon. In that stack of letters was a gorgeous notecard from Omi, an adjunct English professor and one of my “Professors United” pals on swap-bot.

"Indigo Bunting" by Christy Lemp

“Indigo Bunting” by Christy Lemp

Lemp’s watercolor was one of the winners of the AAUW’s 2015 Art contest.  From the back of the card:

Christy Lemp always loved to draw and paint but only starred devoting more time to it after years of working other jobs and raising her family.  Spurred by the passage of a milestone birthday, Lemp quit her job and dove into her passion: watercolor painting.  After much hard work and persistence, Lemp’s dream of making artwork for people has come true. Indigo Bunting was inspired by a Mother’s Day visit of the beautiful bird to Lemp’s bird feeder.

I often think about adjunct professors like Omi who toil day in and day out with inadequate pay and benefits.  In this letter, Omi wrote about how the university that employs her changed the adjunct pay schedule from biweekly to monthly and were (or are) discussing eliminating adjuncts in her discipline altogether! I am sympathetic to the plight of adjuncts and disturbed by how some universities take advantage of them, but I know that many adjuncts appreciate having a paycheck and a job in academia, hoping that “a foot in the door” will lead to a full-time position.

According to the Chipper Woods Bird Observatory:

Indigo Buntings perform a valuable service as they consume grasshoppers, beetles, cankerworms, flies, mosquitoes, cicadas, weevils and aphids. Diet also consists of seeds of raspberries, grasses, thistle, goldenrod, dandelions and other weed seeds. It is well worth the effort to provide suitable brushy habitat and shrubby forest edges to assure a healthy population of these attractive little songsters.

I’m not in the habit of comparing people to animals, but it’s fitting that Omi wrote her letter on this card. It’s a reminder that adjuncts, too, provide an invaluable service to colleges and universities. They, often, perform in ways that other professors refuse, taking on the grunt work of service courses that leave them little time to pursue their own research and dreams.

Despite the challenges, Omi seems upbeat and optimistic. She’s writing, reading, crafting, sharing beauty, and loving her life–and her cats who “own [her] soul because she can’t resist their cute faces.”  =^..^=