Moon Viewing over Sarashina Rice Fields, datable to 1891
Ink on Paper
14 in. x 18 13/16 in. (35.56 cm x 47.78 cm)
Chikanobu depicts the fascinating phenomenon of the full moon reflected on flooded rice fields in Shinano Province (modern Nagano Prefecture). Hiroshige illustrated this famous view, well-known to travelers, in a print from 1853. In Chikanobu’s image, almost 40 years later, four kimono clad women are enjoying the view of the fields from a rustic pavilion where tea and sweets are served. In the distance, a mountain appears to be cradling the moon.
- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021
Signed: “Yoshu Chikanobu”
Color wood-block oban triptych.
Several tourists are enjoying the interesting phenomenon of the moon being reflected on the water surface of flooded rice fields in Shinano Province (Nagano Prefecture). This famous view was well-known to travelers and even illustrated by Hiroshige in an 1853 print. In 1885 Chikanobu included a small landscape scene of the hillside paddies in his Setsu gekka series, but that image was devoid of people. Here he has 4 kimono clad women outside a rustic pavilion where tea and sweets are available, an old man and young boy walking along a path, and a man in a Western style hat climbing the stone steps to a Basho memorial adjacent to the large boulder called "Granny Rock" (Obaishi).
Chikanobu was probably familiar with this area of Japan, near where he was born in Takada, and certainly aware of Basho's travel journal "A Visit to Sarashina Village" (Sarashina kiko) which begins "A desire to go and see the autumn moon at Mount Obasute in Sarashina Village grew stronger in me each time the autumn wind blew." Written in 1688 Basho's prose and poem set make reference to the legend that old women were abandoned on the mountainside in hard times, commenting, "In imagination/ An old woman and I/ Sat together in tears/ Admiring the moon."
Chikanobu has inverted the reference, showing several young women on a calm evening in spring, after the fields have been freshly flooded. One gestures toward the paddies, but to the viewer appears to be pointing directly at the old man who does not seem threatened at all with abandonment by his companion. The whole scene is one of an enjoyable outing in a prosperous countryside, perhaps obliquely commenting on how the new government has successfully overcome the famine and poverty that threatened this area in past times.
For more information, please refer to the Chikanobu exhibition catalogue.
Purchased in Japan by Professor Bruce Coates in 1998, with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures.
Previously bound with accension numbers 98.4.1-98.4.43 in a book.
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