Ueno Park is a spacious public park in the Tokyo, Japan. Established in 1873 on lands formerly belonging to the temple of Kan'ei-ji, it is one of Japan's first public parks, founded a year after Yellowstone National Park was established as the first national park in the United States. Ueno Park is celebrated in spring for its cherry blossoms and hanami festivals.
In this woodblock Shoda Koho captures the scene of a parent and child taking in the cityscape by night, reflected in the waterways of the park, with a crescent moon hanging in the sky.
This specific piece is a variation of the woodblock included in Hasegawa's Night Scenes. This woodblock is printed in the chirimen-gami-e technique and has a slightly different composition than the print included in the Series (pictured here).
The version of Ueno Park by Shoda Koho typically included in Hasegawa's Night Scenes
Chirimen-gami-e or chirimengami-e ("compressed thread paper prints") were crinkled paper prints or "crepe/crepon" prints. Ukiyo-e crepe prints were produced at least as early as 1800 in Edo and were used on occasion for alternate states of some ukiyo-e designs. The compression technique resulted in a highly textured surface and noticeably smaller paper sizes, which offered a different aesthetic from the image printed in standard editions. A noticeable side effect of the technique is the retained richness and vibrancy of the colors. Despite the extra effort involved in making these prints, they were, it seems, more a novelty than an attempt at serious refinement of the printed image.
There was a revival of chirimen-gami-e production in the 1880s with the advent of crepe-paper books to satisfy a growing Western market. Best known are those published by the Hasegawa company; their chirimen-gami publications were especially popular for children's books, as the crepe paper was somewhat resistant to tearing and thus had a better chance of surviving handling by children.
As seen by comparing the two images, the composition has been modified. The trees on the left are in a different order, the child has switched sides with the adult, the skyline is different, and the coloring is significantly enhanced in the chirimen-gami-e version
The Woodblock Print
This woodblock print by Shoda Koho is in pristine condition. The colors are very rich without any blemishes on the plate. In the bottom right margin is an ink smudge that we've seen on other identical prints, leading us to believe that it was a result of the printing process (such as removing the print from the plate or the inking itself). Solid bleed-through of the ink into the verso. A tiny bit of residual paper in the top corners from where the print was likely tipped onto a folio or board for sale. Regarding the size, as mentioned this technique shrinks the image; whereas the normal image was most likely Chuban-sized (7x10"), the resulting print is approximately 6.5"x8.5".
Koho Shoda (ca. 1871-1946) was a Japanese artist associated with the shin-hanga (“New Prints”) art movement in Japan during the early 20th century. This movement was influenced by European Impressionism and its imagery focused on landscapes, women, and nature.