Yokohama Boomtown Image Gallery / Y0109_American_horsewoman
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Gokakoku no uchi: Amerikajin

Title: Among the Five Nations: Americans
Artist: Kunihisa (1882-1891)
Format: Woodblock print
Medium: Ink and color on paper
Dimensions: 34.8 x23.9 cm (13 11/16 x9 13/32 in.)
Source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

The glossary of Japanese and English words filling the space to the left of the blue title cartouche is a notable feature of the series of five prints to which this image belongs (see also Y0110 and Y0111). Each print in the series represents one of the five nations that had treaty relations with Japan upon Yokohama's opening to foreign trade. Prints of this type illustrate the first Japanese effort in a popular medium to contend with the newly introduced foreign languages. The prints in the series exhibit a similar selection of words from the various languages of the Five Nations, with transliterations to the closest equivalent Japanese pronunciation. Awkward approximation of American English resulted from the uncomplicated phonetics of the Japanese language. Imprecise translation of terminology is typical of the glossaries devised for Yokohama prints, which were made up without recourse to dictionaries, except possibly in the case of Dutch. The results such as "singing woman" for geishaand "misshaven" (or mishappen) for the Japanese word for unsightly or ugly are often amusing. The text, which presents one Japanese word and its English equivalent per line, reads in part: "Tenis called "hebun" [heaven]; chiis called "eruzutsu" [earth]; hiis called "zon" [sun]; tsukiis called "muun" [moon]" An American couple with the woman on horseback a curiosity to the Japanese during a period in which only male warriors rode horses is the pictorial subject of this print. The distinctive feather hat in the form of a pineapple crown is a curious costume detail that appears in many Yokohama prints of American women. [Adapted from Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan]

Visualizing Cultures image number: Y0109

Keywords: Westerners, foreign languages, United States, animals, Americans, "Five Nations," horseback riding

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