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Nishikawa Sukenobu, Japanese, (1671–1751)
Eternal Grasses: A Book of Illustrations, Vol. 1, 1731
Ink on Paper
11 in. x 7 3/8 in. (27.94 cm x 18.73 cm)

Object Type: Book
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo (Japan, 1615-1868)
Credit Line: Gift of the Johnson Family Trust
Accession Number: 2003.6.1

Alternate Title: Ehon tokiwagusa

Black ink woodblock prints. Blue cover.

Object Description
Book of women's occupations, including 15 double page figural illustrations, 1/2 page of bamboo and calligraphy, and 16 double pages of figural illustrations; all in black and white. Three volumes bound together.

In the volumes Kyoto artist Sukenobu has illustrated various occupations he considered appropriate for women. Among the famous poets and writers he portrayed, Ono no Komachi is shown dressed in imperial court robes, standing in a garden. The poem written next to her (Sown by no one / from what seeds / grow the floating grasses / luxuriating / on the undulating ripples?) is reportedly the verse she recited in a poetry competition with her rival Otomo no Kuronushi, who claimed she had cheated by plagerizing a poem from the 8th century anthology "Manyoshu."

To prove his accusation, Kuronushi produced his copy of the Manyoshu with her verse in it. However, Komachi knew he had overheard her composing it aloud the night before. She took his book, dipped it in water and showed that the "forged" verse washed off the paper, not having been part of the original published text. Kuronushi admitted having added her poem to his copy and offered to commit suicide. However, the Emperor forbid Kuronuchi to do that and then praised Komachi for her devotion to poetry.

(Text by Professor Bruce Coats)

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