Ukiyo-e background scenery ～gardens～
September 5 (Tue) – December 3 (Sun), 2017
This museum exhibits ukiyo-e paintings produced in Osaka in the Edo period. Most of the ukiyo-e paintings made in Osaka were portraits of kabuki actors. While actors are the main elements of kabuki, background scenery not only adds spice to the kabuki stage but also describes the story’s setting and/or characters’ statuses. In ukiyo-e paintings, those stage settings are drawn as background scenery.
In this feature exhibition we focus on ukiyo-e background scenery. In the “screen paintings” exhibition we focused on fusuma paintings and folding screens, but in this “gardens” exhibition, we focus on outside scenery. Please enjoy relations of gardens scenery to the world in which it is drawn.
Pine tree as a good omen
A Japanese garden is consisted of a variety of plants so that you can enjoy seasonal scenery changes. There are rich expressions of seasons in kabuki plays, and seasonal plants such as cherry blossoms in spring and red leaves in autumn that match the time that the play is performed or the season that the story is set decorate the stage.
Among those plants, a pine tree plays an important role. Because a pine tree is evergreen and lives long, it has been widely used as a garden plant. A pine tree is placed at important points in a garden as a symbol of prosperity, as written in a gardening guidebook* written in the Edo period.
*” Tsukiyama niwa tsukuri den”
A pine tree is also essential for the background scenery of kabuki play. For example, it is placed even at a townsman’s house in which Otomi lives in the story “Yowa nasake ukina no yokogushi”. Otomi also appears in the famous song “Otomi-san” which begins with the phrase “Iki na kurobei mikoshino matsuni “.
Reference: “Yowa nasake ukina no yokogushi”
Scenery with water
In making a Japanese garden, which expresses nature, another essential element is water. Not only sea and river, but ponds, creeks or waterfalls are placed in a Japanese garden in pursuit of coolness during summer. Tsuridono, a small pavilion that is used in shinden-zukuri style architecture, is said to be made in order to enjoy the cool breeze.
By placing a waterfall people enjoyed the sound of water. They also invented shishi-odoshi, a deivice that uses water.
Noblemen and samurais’ residences with a scenery with water are drawn at the back of ukiyo-e paintings, expressing the style of palace where the story is set.
A fence that tells border
“Kaki (also gaki) is a fence that surrounds a garden as a divider. There are roughly two types of kaki : ikegaki and sodegaki. Ikegaki is a hedge, surrounding the garden using plants, trimmed or untrimmed.
Most sodegaki is made of bamboo (called takegaki), there are yotsumegaki (put bamboo together in length and breadth) and yaraigaki (put bamboo together in diamond-wise).
In kabuki plays, too, kaki is used as an important object. It is not only a border where characters enter to and exit from the stage but also implicitly shows border between people.
Elegance expressed by rocks
Toro, a Japanese stone lantern, is said to have been brought into Japan with Buddhism and initially it was mainly used as a votive lantern at temples and shrines. It is said that toro came to be used in a garden as a light for evening tea ceremony around the Momoyama period (around 16th century), which was the first time toro was used as a gardening object.
Sen no rikyu put a stone lantern at a roji (dewy ground) in his tea room garden and that was like the picture shown.
Chozubachi (water bowl) and tobi-ishi (stepping stone) also came to be used as a gardening object and placed at a roji, causing to create a variety of designs. The stone products are both useful and beautiful, adding elegance to a garden.
In ukiyo-e, you see a lot of toro with words written on them such as kabuki actor’s name or related words.
Precincts of temples and shrines
Toro and chozubachi were first used in temples and shrines. In kabuki plays there are many scenes at temples and shrines, and in order to show that the scene is at a temple/shrine, stone lantern or chozubachi are used.