The Japanese New Years Festival

ページ名:The Japanese New Years Festival

Title: The Japanese New Year’s Festival, Games and Pastimes
Author: Helen Gunsaulus
The Japanese prints with which we are most familiar in this country are those known as nishikiye, literally “brocade picture.” Generally speaking, they are portraits of actors and famous beauties or landscapes and nature studies. There are, however, other woodcuts known as surimono, “things printed,” whose subjects are characters known in history and folklore, household gods, incidents in the daily life of the people and the celebration of certain festivals, particularly that of the New Year. From a careful study of these prints we may become acquainted with many of the most distinctive customs of Japan.
Though produced by the same process as that used for the nishikiye, surimono may be easily distinguished from the former. In addition to the series of wood blocks used to print the outline and colors of the design, surimono are often enriched by the application of metal dusts and embossing. The decorative motive is usually interpreted or accompanied by a poem or series of poems written in the picture. These prints were not made for sale but were exchanged as gifts among poets and artists on certain occasions, such as feasts, birthdays, theatrical or literary meetings, and especially as cards of greeting presented at the opening of the New Year. The surimono in the{2} collection in Field Museum of Natural History were selected primarily with the view of illustrating the customs and mode of living of the people of Japan rather than of assembling together pictures which would be enjoyed for their aesthetic appeal. While these prints are of an artistic nature, they are valuable to an institution of this kind as approaches to the study of the ethnology of Japan. The Museum is in possession of a collection of three hundred and sixty prints which has been divided into four groups, in the first of which the New Year’s festival and certain games and pastimes are pictured to a considerable degree. This selection is hung each year in Gunsaulus Hall (Room 30, Second Floor) from January 1st to April 1st, when it is succeeded by another group.

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