Yokohama Boomtown Image Gallery / Y0153_Leopard
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Nishiryōgoku ni oite kōgyō

Title: Display at Nishi Ryōgoku
Artist: Yoshitoyo (1830-1866)
Format: Woodblock print
Medium: Ink and color on paper
Dimensions: 36.3 x25 cm. (14 1/4 x9 13/16 in.)
Source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Shortly after the opening of Yokohama to foreign trade in 1859, two tigers were brought to Japan. Sir Rutherford Alcock (1809-1897), the British minister, wrote of the tigers: Worth about $100 in the Straits, they sold here to Japanese for the purposes of exhibition for three or four thousand. And in this, as in other things, the Japanese appetite appeared to grow by indulgence, for the tigers led to an order for a brace of elephants. According to Alcock and others, the Japanese customs officials initially refused to pass the tigers through customs because they were not listed as import commodity. But when the Dutch consul intervened and suggested that the tiger simply be let loose, the official relented. Notwithstanding the validity of that story, numerous prints attest that a tiger was indeed exhibited in 1860 in Edo's busy Ryōgoku district, which was famous as a locale for displays of exotic animals and other spectacles. Yoshitoyo's print depicts a leopard ferociously attacking a rooster, whose feathers fly about the cage. Compared to some other portrayals of the tiger exhibited at Ryōgoku, in which the animals seems little more fierce than a domestic cat, Yoshitoyo's print effectively expresses the frightening and deadly energy of the beast. The inscription by Kanagaki Robun (1829-1894) reads: When the tiger and the leopard roar from the ground, the rooftiles will all shake, and wine on the table will tip over, as Shazaikan records. Being able to view such a frightening beast in a prosperous district spreads the moral reform of peace widely across the seas and has been a blessing for this auspicious reign. To Robun the importation to Japan of such magnificent, exotic animals such as tigers, leopards, and elephants was a manifestation of Japan's new international status. [Adapted from Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan]

Visualizing Cultures image number: Y0153

Keywords: animals, Kanagaki Robun, Sir Rutherford Alcock, animals (exotic)

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