12 thoughts on “Best early Western depictions of Japan ever?”

  1. You guys could post each of these in their own post for months on end to try and get the best titles or dialogue balloons going. This material is crazy.

  2. In answer to the rhetorical question posed by the title of this entry: Pretty much! I’ve never seen these before – they’re like a through-the-looking-glass version of some of the roughly contemporaneous ukiyo-e prints.

    Great find!

  3. I just love how thousands of people are worshipping the hindu god and paying no mind to the blazing castle behind them.

  4. The third one’s a sumo match, yes? And the second one with the nautilus-shell character and the many-armed classically-Greek-looking god, who by the way is standing inside a big fish – fascinating stuff!

  5. The first one looks like a mash-together of many faced and many armed Kannon bosatsu. I’d guess that the castle burning in the background is supposed to be the aftermath of the Shimabara revolt and the slaughter of Christians in Japan. That could also be why we have weapons scattered around – people giving up the struggle for their Christian faith and prostrating themselves before the (not so) native gods.

    The second one looks nuts.

    The third one looks like sumo with a few scraps of a samurai armor and a dash of ancient Rome.

  6. Yeah, the top one is clearly a depiction of the eleven-faced thousand-armed Kannon drawn by someone who had never actually seen one. In that vein, I recommend the elephant at Nikko Toshogu.

    For that middle photo, the soure is either wrong or the artist was really confused – that is a depiction of Vishnu in his incarnation as a merman:

  7. Great. I see by following the Biblio link that my clever sleuthing of the middle pic was all in vain. Oh well.

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