Revere the Gods, Respect one's Ancestors

(between 1937 and 1941)

IHL Cat. #2678

Statue of Ninomiya Sontoku at Hōtokuninomiya-jinga in Odawara, Kanagawa, near Ninomiya's birthplace.


A color lithograph patriotic fan sample print, likely created between 1937 and 1941 during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) [1], depicting young students, possibly on a class outing, visiting one of the many statues of Ninomiya Sontoku 二宮尊徳 (1787-1856), whose life serves as a model of diligence and selfless behavior for children. As in the pictured statue, he is usually portrayed as a diligent boy reading a book as he walks to school with a pile of firewood on his back. 

Better known by the name Ninomiya Kinjirō 二宮金次郎,  his childhood was beset with severe hardship and obstacles. He would go on to become an agronomist and promote the concept and practice of hōtoku shihō (repaying virtue), a religious philosophy combining the ideals of "cooperation, mutual assistance, and honoring one’s parents with that of more tangible matters [such as] irrigation, better crop fertilization, and storing excess crops to protect against lean years."[2] His teachings would later be used by those supporting Japan's militarization, expansionism and colonization of Asia. After the war his teachings would rise again as an example of thrift and savings to develop the capital needed for Japan's economic revival.

On the statue's plinth in yellow is inscribed 二宮金次郎先生 Sensei Ninomiya Kinjirō, above the phrase 敬神崇祖 keishin sūso, "Revere the gods, respect one's ancestors." On the left side is inscribed 国民精神総動員, "National Spiritual Mobilization," a movement formalized by government decree in October 1937 to bring a wide range of nationalist organizations under government control to rally the nation for total war against China.

As the war ground on, many of the Ninomiya bronze statues would be melted down for munitions and replaced with ceramic replicas.[3]

The print carries the sample catalog number そ印 参百九拾(so in sanbyaku kyū jū shichi gō [397]). These numbered fan prints (uchiwa-e 団扇絵) were gathered into a sample book (uchiwa mihonchō 団扇見本帳, or uchiwa gachō 団扇画帖.) to show wholesale customers the range of available designs.

Note: Transcriptions and translations are my own unless otherwise noted. 

[1]The Second Sino-Japanese War is referred to in China as the "War of Resistance Against Japan."

[2] website of Los Angeles Explorers Guild [accessed 9-15-23]

[3] Certain Victory, Images of World War II in the Japanese Media, David C. Earhart, M.E. Sharpe, 2008, p. 131. 

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