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Utagawa Kunisada (aka Toyokuni III), Japanese, (1786–1864)
Celebrated Places in Edo: Cat with Forked Tongue, Ink on Paper
13 1/16 in. x 8 11/16 in. (331.79 mm x 220.66 mm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo (Japan, 1615-1868)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer
Accession Number: 93.3.106

There are many varieties of supernatural cats in Japanese folklore. One type, the bakeneko, or “ghost cats,” are said to be able to walk on their hind legs, shapeshift and speak human languages. They can be dangerous, sometimes accidentally causing fires with their torch-like tails and occasionally killing their masters and assuming their forms. More frightening are the nekomata, larger, deadlier monster cats with two tails who despise humans, often killing people and controlling their corpses like puppets. They are also believed to summon fireballs and start huge fires. In this print from a series pairing Kabuki actors with scenes from districts in Edo and their local fire departments, a nekomata is shown representing Nekomata Bridge (in Bunkyō-ku in modern Tokyo). Though we only see one of the cat’s tails, its tongue is flame-like, suggesting its power to start fires.

- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021

No marks.

Colored ink woodblock on paper.

Object Description
This unusual print Kunisada again represents a woman as a menacing cat. She is placed compositionally over both man and nature. The cat's flame-like tongue conjures wild destruction, but the determined samurai will protect Edo from this horrid untamed beast.

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