Bijin Kuchi-e Color Offset Lithographs and Taishō-Era Popular Magazines (Updated)
PRINTS IN COLLECTION
COMPLETE MAGAZINES WITH BIJIN KUCHI-E INSERT
BIJIN KUCHI-E SEPARATED FROM ORGINAL MAGAZINE
Bijinga Kuchi-e and Taishō-era Popular Magazines
Unfortunately most of the bijin kuchi-e found for sale today, as with all but a few of this collection’s prints, have become separated from the original magazines they were inserted in, making it impossible to determine what they may have been illustrating. In Kendal Brown's words, by their separation they become "unmoored from their physical context ... [where] they participated in a visual dialogue with a variety of images of women, including color cover designs (hyōshi-e), monochrome illustrations (sashi-e) in the fiction, photos of persons in the news and advertisements."5 In collecting these affordable prints, expect to see a characteristic tri-fold as many of the prints were larger than the dimensions of the magazines they were inserted into.
Bijin kuchi-e appeared in both general audience magazines, such as Bungei kurabu 文芸俱楽部 (Literary Club, 1895-1933, publisher Hakubunkan), Kōdan kurabu 講談倶楽部 (Storytelling Club, 1911-1962, publisher Dai Nihon Yūbenkai Kōdansha) and Kingu キング (King, 1925-1943, publisher Dai Nihon Yūbenkai Kōdansha), Japan’s first million selling magazine, and magazines specifically targeted at girls and women such as Jogaku Sekai 女学世界 (Student Girls’ World, 1901-1925, publisher Hakubunkan), Fujin kurabu 婦人倶楽部 (Women's Club, 1920-1988, publisher Kodansha), Fujokai 婦女界 (Woman's Sphere, 1910-1943, 1948-1950, 1952 Dōbunkan; later, Fujokai), Fujin sekai 婦人世界 (Women's World, 1906-1933, publisher Jitsugyō no Nihonsha) and Shufu no tomo 主婦之友 (The Housewife's Friend, 1917-2008, publisher Tokyo kaseikai; later, Shufu no tomosha ), whose monthly circulation was to reach 200,000 in 1927 and grow to over 1,000,000 in the mid-1930s.6 Between 1911 and 1930 over 200 women's magazines and journals began publication, although not all featured bijin kuchi-e.7
The Subject Matter of Women's Magazines
While the Taishō era (1912-1926) brought with it material benefits and status improvement for many women and saw the emergence of the "new woman" (atarashii onna), mass market magazines targeted for women had an ambivalent attitude about these changes.
Source: Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives: Popular Portraits of Women in Japan, 1905-1925, Kendall Brown, Dover Publications, Inc., 2011, p. IX.
In Taishō kuchi-e, bijin often look out a window to a nearby landscape or to gaze at plants, pose in front of flora, or, in a few cases, pick flowers or tend them. In nearly every image there is a seasonal reference so that the woman stands for the season and for the appreciation of it. Because the clothing of the bijin is linked to the season, the relationship is harmonious. These images invoke an ideology of naturalness by which the particular construct of feminine beauty, and its associations, are naturalized - seen as existing without contrivance. Nature also may function allegorically, so that fresh snow symbolizes purity and cherry blossoms evoke transience. The typical downward cast of the eyes suggests a gaze inward, as is to imply that the lessons of the season are being internalized by the bijin, who is, fundamentally, reflective. This quality of "romantic introspection" to suggest personality and an inner life was carried over from Meiji kuchi-e, where it often expressed melancholy or world weariness.