Do you know 鯰絵(cartfish picture)which is a kind of Ukiyoe.
I will explain about this 鯰絵(cartfish picture). That’s a maniac topic, but please read!!
At first, I could only appreciate Ukiyoe superficially, thinking that "this picture is beautiful" or "the artist of this Ukiyoe is Katsushika Hokusai" However, as I encountered many Ukiyo-e works in my research and realized that Ukiyoe often contain some kind of message, I was able to look at Ukiyoe from a different angle. The genre that I found most interesting was catfish paintings. It is still said that catfish is a fish that warns of earthquakes and causes earthquakes. I was surprised to learn that this popular myth about catfish and earthquakes has existed since the Edo period in the 18th century, about 300 years ago. In some ukiyoe works, catfish are treated like demons that cause earthquakes, while in other works, catfish are worshipped like gods by people who have benefited from the earthquakes. Another interesting aspect of catfish paintings is that the way catfish are depicted and treated is completely different in each work. It is rare for a subject to be depicted in such a different way depending on the artist. In fact, "Dutch folklorist Cornelius Ouwehand wrote, 'The earthquake catfish is both a destroyer and a protector.' He pointed out that the earthquake catfish is both a destroyer and a protector, and that one god can be both good and evil, which is a thought not seen in Europe,"¹ according to "幕末江戸の文化 浮世絵と風刺画(Culture of the Late Edo Period)" The catfish is depicted both as a god of good fortune and as a god of evil that causes disasters such as earthquakes, and this duality of the catfish is interesting. When you think about it, it is the natural order of things that when someone benefits, someone else loses. In "Shin Yoshiwara Oonamazu Yarahi" (Shin Yoshiwara Great Catfish Yarahi), the carpenters and plasterers are helping the catfish, while the prostitutes are attacking the catfish. In this catfish painting, someone is being damaged by an earthquake, while someone else is benefiting from the earthquake. I feel that catfish paintings, which express the sorrow and joy of each person in response to a single phenomenon such as an earthquake, are works that strike at the core of life. If you look at the period when catfish paintings were first published, you will find that it was after the Ansei Earthquake(安政の大地震) in 1855. When I saw this year, the first thing that came to mind was the arrival of Matthew Calbraith Perry in Japan. In 1853 and 1854, black ships came to Uraga in an attempt to open Japan, which had been closed to the outside world at that time, and had a great impact on Japan. The arrival of Perry and the Ansei Earthquake were very close in time. Therefore, I was curious to see if there were any catfish paintings that depicted not only the earthquake but also the effects of the arrival of Perry. While looking at catfish paintings, I found another interesting piece of art, which I will introduce here. (八百万神御守護末代地震降伏之図)² In this work, the catfish, the one who caused the earthquake, is depicted bowing his head and declaring some kind of pledge. What is interesting to me is the text of this catfish painting. Recently, foreigners have often come to this country, and I know that they are noisy even under the ground. Please forgive me.. (I translated old Japanese into English, so this translation might not correct, sorry.) It seems that the arrival of Perry was also perceived as a direct cause of the Ansei Earthquake. The arrival of Perry was a major and important event at the time. It was considered to be the cause of a major earthquake, as a foreigner visited the country and forced it to open up. The idea of blaming a creature or an event, such as catfish or Perry's visit, as the cause of an earthquake disaster is also unique to the time. When I think about the differences in the way catfish are depicted in different works of art, as well as the relationship between major political events and catfish paintings, I realize that catfish paintings are not simply works that report earthquakes. Catfish paintings do not only report the occurrence of an earthquake, but also depict the reaction of the people to the earthquake through the attitude of the people around the catfish. Therefore, the way the catfish is treated differently in each work, and the reactions and attitudes of the people around the catfish are the essence of catfish paintings. In the work in which the catfish is being chastised, the feelings of people who resent the damage caused by the earthquake are inferred and expressed. The works in which catfish are worshipped like gods express the joyful feelings of the people who benefited greatly from the earthquake. The works in which some people benefit and others makes waste express what this world is like. In the "八百万神御守護末代地震降伏之図," the shock and anxiety of the people at the arrival of Perry is dipicted as the cause of the great earthquake, expressing how much of a shock the arrival of Perry was. The catfish is not only a symbol of the earthquake itself, but it is also a way to express the feelings of the people and the painful and absurd reality of this world caused by the earthquake. When viewing catfish paintings, we should pay attention to how the world is represented through catfish.
Did you read my writings?
I will summarize above long writing.
A catfish painting is a work of art in which the relationship between people's lives and earthquakes can be understood through how catfish is treated.
I hope you enjoy my writing and become interested in Japanese culture, ukiyoe.