The Thunder God Sounding a Wood Block and a Catfish in a Priestly Robe, 1855-1856
Ink on Paper
14 1/4 in. x 9 7/8 in. (361.95 mm x 250.83 mm)
In Japanese mythology, a giant catfish (Japanese: namazu) lives beneath its islands and occasionally shakes, causing earthquakes. Following the Great Ansei Earthquake that devastated Edo in 1855, many prints called namazu-e, or “catfish pictures,” were created to provide humor, social commentary, and to offer protection from future earthquakes. In this print, a catfish is dressed in the robes of a Buddhist priest and holds an instrument called a yotsutake, played like castanets. Beside him, Raijin, the usually fearsome thunder god, accompanies him by beating his wooden gong. According to text, the pair are engaged in Chobokure, a form of street performance that used rhythm instruments and fast patter songs or recitations. The text also explains that the earthquake has shaken up society in some beneficial ways, with prices falling and many people prospering.
- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021
Text all over the image.
Colored ink on paper; oban.
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