Dai Nippon Bussan Zue (Products of Greater Japan), 1877

Hunting the Giant Octopus of Namekawa, Etchū Province from the series Dai Nippon Bussan Zue.

Products of Greater Japan, 1877

Dai Nippon Bussan Zue 大日本物産図会 (だいにっぽんぶっさんずえ)

(A series of 118 prints depicting various economic activities throughout Japan)


The woodblock print series Dai Nippon Bussan Zue, drawn by Utagawa Hiroshige III (1842–1894), was published by the Tokyo-based publisher Ōkura Magobei on August 10, 1877. Each printed sheet in the series contained a pair of illustrations depicting regional scenes of farming, fishing, mining and other economic activities. Higuchi Hiromu, a collector of 19th-century nishiki-e, wrote in 1943 that there were 60 pairs (120 pictures) in the series, but only 118 are extant.1 There is also reference to over 100 pairs (200 pictures) being issued, based on the existence of prints in this series that carry numbers in their margin, some of which exceed the number 200. However, based upon the haphazard appearance of numbers on only the occasional print, these numbers appear to have no relationship to the total number of prints in the series and we can safely assume that only 59 pair (118 pictures) were issued.

The series' issuance date strongly suggests that their publication was timed for the August 21, 1877 opening of the first National Industrial Exposition (Naikoku Kangyō Hakurankai) in Tokyo's Ueno Park. (See The 1877 First National Industrial Exhibition below.)

1 Picturing Westernization and Modernization: A Woodblock Print Collection from Late 19th Century Japan, Izumi Koide, June 16, 2006, a paper delivered at the WORLD LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CONGRESS: 72ND IFLA GENERAL CONFERENCE AND COUNCIL 20-24 August 2006, Seoul, Korea http://archive.ifla.org/IV/ifla72/papers/085-Koide-en.pdf

The Series Dai Nippon Bussan Zue 大日本物産図会 (Products of Greater Japan, 1877)

This series is also referred to as Dainippon Butsu-san Zukai (Pictures of Products and Industries of Japan) and is variously translated as Products of Greater Japan, Series of Greater Japan Products, Famous Products of Japan, Products of Japan, and Pictorial Record of Japanese Products, among others.

In all, 58 provinces (or regions) are represented in the series.  Fifty-seven provinces are each represented by two prints, with Iyo Province being the one province represented by four prints. The names given for the provinces are those of the pre-Meiji era, sometimes referred to as the "old kuni".  (A brief description of each of the old kuni can be found in the article Former Provinces of Japan.) As shown below, the prints for each province were printed together on a single ōban-size sheet of paper and then cut into separate chūban size sheets.  Uncut sheets can sometimes be found, as in IHL Cat. #362 Producing Soy Sauce and Watermelon Field in Shimōsa Province shown below.

Example of uncut ōban-size sheet

14 1/4 x 9 3/4 in. (36.2 x 23.5 cm)

Producing Soy Sauce and Watermelon Field, Shimōsa Province

IHL Cat. #362

Most Prints Bound Into Books

The printed sheets in ōban format (approximately 10 x 14 inches) were cut and sold as individual sheets or, as most were, cut and bound into books. There are two book formats, a book sized approximately 7 x 9 1/2 in. (18 x 24 cm.) which allowed the prints to lay flat and a book sized approximately 7 x 5 in. (18 x 13 cm) which required each print to be folded in half.  An advertisement included at the end of one bound folding book says “Dai Nippon Bussan Zue, orihon zen 6 satsu,” namely that there were six books in the series.  Extant books do not necessarily contain the same pictures in the same order and it seems that there was no fixed way of arranging the prints when they were bound together.

Example of a volume in which each print lays flat 

Cover of one of two volumes of Dai Nippon Bussan Zue, each containing 42 prints 

(Waseda University Library Archives http://archive.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kosho/yo01/yo01_04265/

One example of many types of bindings and distribution for this series.

Two pages from the above binding (Waseda University Library Archives) 

Example of a volume in which each print is folded 

In this bound set of 30 prints, each print is folded in half 

Covers for volumes 1 and 2, each containing 30 prints folded in half 

Signatures and Cartouches on the Prints

Most of the prints in the top half of the uncut ōban size sheet are signed "Hiroshige hitsu" in the bottom of its right margin and most of the bottom prints carry a cartouche in the left margin that gives Hiroshige III's address and his family name, Andō Tokubei, and the publisher's address and name, Ōkura Magobei, in a cartouche in the right margin, as shown below. 


Hiroshige hitsu 




gakō Ōga machi yon banchi,

Andō Tokubei 


日本橋通一丁目十九番地   大倉孫兵衛

publisher, Nihobashi-dōri Itchōme 19-banchi, Ōkura Magobei

Borrowing of Scenes

Source: Picturing Westernization and Modernization: A Woodblock Print Collection from Late 19th Century Japan, Izumi Koide, June 16, 2006, a paper delivered at the WORLD LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CONGRESS: 72ND IFLA GENERAL CONFERENCE AND COUNCIL 20-24 August 2006, Seoul, Korea http://archive.ifla.org/IV/ifla72/papers/085-Koide-en.pdf

These pictures show industrial scenes such as harvesting natural resources, processing crafts, shipping products, etc. in certain regions, and hence depicting local industry. In the history of Japanese drawings particularly for practical use, there were various genres of pictures: meisho-e described famous places such as temples, sight-seeing spots, etc.; shokunin-e depicted various professionals and how to make things; bussan-e were like pictorial encyclopedia for products; and hakubutsu-e were of things. The Dai Nippon Bussan Zue is a combination of these genres of picture. By presenting images of most regions in Japan systematically with respective local industries, products, and working people, it suggested the variety as well as commonality of the developing nation.

The pictures are of all regions of Japan (see Former Provinces of Japan) and it is unlikely that the artist traveled to each place. Some pictures of the series are “borrowed” from other pictures, a practice known as shakuyō. Some pictures were taken from Nihon Sankai Meisan Zue (Famous Sea and Land Products in Japan, first published in 1799), and others were from Kii Meisho Zue (Famous Places in the Kii Region) of the mid 19th century. There might exist other “originals” upon which pictures in the Dai Nippon Bussan Zue were based, as there were many other regional “famous places series.” 

click on image to enlarge

Hiroshige III has covered the almost naked bodies of the men hauling in the day's catch and given us a "rising sun", but otherwise his 1877 print is a picture of a scene set at the end of the previous century.

Despite the borrowing of scenes from older originals, local industries had not changed much for decades when these prints were issued in the early Meiji period in comparison to the immense change in the political system. The pictures in Dai Nippon Bussan Zue gave people images of local industrial scenes, even if conventional or imaginary, in the age of “national industrial expositions.” 

Multiple Editions

The series was extremely popular and was reprinted many times by the publisher Ōkura Magobei, whose shop in Nihonbashi (shown left) was nearby the site of the First National Industrial Exhibition in Ueno Park. While there is no record of prints being sold at the exhibition site, I believe, even if not actually sold at the site, they were advertised at the Exhibition.

Each printing would have both intentional (planned) and non-intentional (unplanned) color variances from previous printings and I have seen many instances of the same print issued with three different colored cartouches (red, green and multi-colored) containing the series' title in the upper right corner, as shown below.  

Producing Soy Sauce in Shimosa Province - Three Variations 

The 1877 First National Industrial Exhibition

Source: Japan Goes to the World's Fairs: Japanese Art at the Great Expositions in Europe and the United States 1867-1904, Los Angeles County Museum, 2005, p. 46.

The First National Industrial Exhibtion (内国勧業博覧会, Naikoku Kangyō Hakurankai) was held from August 21 through November 30, 1877, in Tokyo's Ueno Park and drew over 450,000 visitors. The Minister of the Interior, Ōkubo Toshimichi, who acted as the exhibition's general director, was a powerful advocate for the policy of fostering production and commerce and a proponent of national industrial exhibitions. The exhibition site consisted of a museum, main hall, machinery hall, agriculture hall, animal husbandry hall, horticulture hall, Gokakudō (pentagonal hall), and Rokusō-an tea ceremony pavilion. There were a total of 16,172 exhibitors showing 84,353 items. In anticipation of the event, the government clearly stated its interest in encouraging the growth of export industries and requested that every prefecture in Japan participate in the exhibition, suggesting that the domestic fairs were intended to provide a survey of the products and industries of the entire country and to offer a venue for assessing which of those products might be suitable for export.

The Complete Set of 118 Prints

Notes on commonly used kanji in print titles:

国 (or 國) kuni - province

同国 dōkoku - the same province (a reference to the province written in the cartouche of paired print)

製図 seizu - drawing or sketch

之図 or 圖 or ノ図 (no zu) - picture or drawing


安芸国 Aki no kuni

Modern-day Hiroshima prefecture (広島県)


阿波国 Awa no kuni

Modern-day Tokushima Prefecture


Indigo Production (harvesting  Indigofera), Awa Province figure 1

 阿波国藍製之図 一

 (Awa no kuni ai sei no zu ichi) 

Indigo Production (preparing the leaves), Awa Province figure 2

 阿波国藍玉製之図 二 


安房国 Awa no kuni

Modern-day Chiba Prefecture


 Daffodil Flowers, Awa Province


 Awa no kuni suisen hana 

Saury Netting, Awa Province


 dōkoku [Awa] sanma ami no zu


淡路国 Awaji no kuni

Modern-day Hyōgo Prefecture


Seabream Netting, Awaji Province


 Awaji no kuni tai buri ami no zu 

Red Snapper Netting, Awaji Province



備後国 Bingo no kuni

Modern-day Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県) 

Planting Rush, Bingo Province


 Bingo no kuni ran wo ueru zu 


備前国 Bizen no kuni

Modern-day Okayama Prefecture (岡山県) 

Catching Whitefish, Bizen Province



筑前国 Chikuzen no kuni

Modern-day Fukuoka Prefecture


Woven Items, Hakata, Chizuken Province


 Chizuken no kuni hakata ori no zu 

Catching Tuna, Chikuzen Province


 Chikuzen no kuni maguro ryō no zu 


越後国 Echigo no kuni

Part of modern-day Niigata Prefecture (新潟県) 

 Bleaching Fabric on the Snow, Echigo Province


Echigo no kuni secchu nuno sarashi no zu  

Catching Salmon, Echigo Province



越前国 Echizen no kuni

Northern part of modern-day Fukui Prefecture (福井県) 

Paper (hōsho) Making, Echizen Province


 Echizen no kuni hōsho shi sei no zu 

Gathering Sea Urchin, Echizen Province



 Echizen no kuni uni tori no zu 


越中国 Etchū no kuni

Modern-day Toyama Prefecture


 Giant Octopus in Namekawa, Etchū Province


 Etchū Namekawa dai tako no zu 


播磨国 Harima no kuni

(also known as Banshū province 播州)

Southwestern part of modern-day Hyōgo Prefecture (兵庫県) 

Leather Shop, Himeji, Banshū


 Banshū Himeji kawa ten no zu 

Saltern in the Ako District, Harima Province



 飛騨国 Hida no kuni

(also known as Hishū province


Northern part of modern-day Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県) 

Silkworm Culture, Hida Province, figure 2

 飛騨国養蚕(蠶)之図 二

 Hida no kuni yōsan no zu 

 Hunting Boar and Deer, Hishū Province 



 Hishū shishigari no zu 


肥後国 Higo no kuni

Modern-day Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県) on the island of Kyūshū


Planting Rice, Higo Province


 Higo no kuni taue no zu 

Harvesting and Threshing Rice, Higo Province


 dō [Higo no kuni] kariba no zu 


常陸国 Hitachi no kuni

(also known as Jōshū province)

Modern-day Ibaraki Prefecture



肥前国  Hizen no kuni

Modern-day  Saga (佐賀県) and Nagasaki (長崎県) Prefectures