Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Wakanoura Bay in Kii Province (紀伊和歌浦): From the series Comparison of Renowned Sceneries and Beautiful Women (Honchō fūkei bijin kurabe - 本朝風景美人競)

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Dates: created,circa 1832 - 1834
Dimensions: 10.0 in,14.75 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Kōchōrō Kunisada ga
Artist's seal: double toshidama in red
Publisher: Sanoya Kihei (Marks 446 - seal 25-210)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Google map - Wakanoura is located in Wakayama City in the northwest corner of Wakayama Prefecture; Keio University Library - another example from this series; Art Institute of Chicago - 1855 Hiroshige print of Wakanoura bay; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Hokkei surimono of Yamabe no Akahito at Wakanoura;

Physical description:

A beautiful woman wrapped in a heavy plaid blue and white winter robe is trying to warm herself from the coals in a hibachi.

This is one print from a larger series by Kunisada. In each of them is a large "elaborately ornamented and bejewelled votive lantern."

Notice that there is a collapsed lantern, chōchin-style, to the left of the squatting woman. If there is a particular significance to this item we are unaware of what it is. However, it does have the character 吉 (kichi) printed on it. It also appears on the front of the box right next to it.

Sebastian Izzard tells us that there are 10 prints in this series. He also gives a slightly different take on identifying so-called lantern motif: "This series of ten prints takes advantage of the vogue for aizuri-e (blue-printed pictures) and for Chinese-style exotica. The vignettes of views with which the beauties are compared are in the form of blue and white porcelain plaques in elaborate frames with silk tassels and glass ornaments." Kunisada's World, p. 135.


The bay at Wakanoura is featured in an 1855 print by Hiroshige. See the link to that print at the Art Institute of Chicago above. In this print from the Lyon Collection Wakanoura appears in the aizuri-e plaque in the upper right.

In 1688 Bashō wrote a haiku about Wakanoura

departing spring -
I finally caught up with it
here at Wakanoura

In Bashō's Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo Bashō it says: "Wakanoura, south of Osaka, is a scenic bay and famous in Japanese literature since early times because it literally means "Poetry Bay." "

Kaibara Ekiken (貝原益軒: 1630-1714) went to "...investigate the waves at Wakanoura, a bay celebrated in poetry because there was said to be "male waves" (onami) but no "female waves" (menami). Ekiken explained, "By 'male waves' is meant big waves, and by 'female waves' is meant small waves. I have never believed this story." Accordingly, he spent time at the bay carefully observing the waves and reached the conclusion that just as at every other beach, Wakanoura had both male and female waves."

Quoted from: Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793–1841, p. 73.

In the Man'yōshū a poem by Yamabe no Akahito talks of loneliness. "As the tide rises at Wakanoura, the flats disappear, and the cranes head for the shore of reeds, crying."


There is also another copy of this print in the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden.