ORIGINAL TITLE Title: Shuen no tane (酒宴のたね)
TYPE: Book
DIMENSIONS: 3 X 6 1/3 inches (closed)
COMPONENTS: 72 pages of songs with 3 pages of full color woodblock prints.
NOTES: This is a very interesting and delightful artifact of everyday Edo life. Outstanding and original .
Language: Japanese

ITEM ID: 1177
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Seeds for a Drinking Party

Decade: 1840s
Century: 19th (1801-1900)
Notes: Edo

Japanese woodblock print book of Shamisen Songs to sing while drinking with Geisha, including a rare image of a bathing scene.

According to scholar Angelika Koch, “The title of this is Shuen no tane (酒宴のたね) (’Seeds for a Drinking Party’) and the images are by Utagawa Kunikazu whose name is printed on the left bottom-hand corner of the cover inside the little pink fluffy cloud.

There is one copy of this book in the Hayashi Collection at Ritsumeikan University, but it lacks the second multi-colour double page with the illustrations of the bath and the geisha that your edition includes.

To me it looks colour-printed. I looked at the book in a bit more detail and it does not only contain various types of popular songs (Otsue-bushi, Iyo-bushi…) in the first part of the book, but also e.g. some games to be played at a banquet, such as ‘Rock, paper, scissors’ (known as ken game in Japan). You will find a little drawing towards the end of the book explaining the different hand signs for rock paper scissors. So it was not just a book of songs as your seller described it, but really a little guide to all sorts of entertainments popular at drinking parties. I would think that the cover and first image depict a geisha (who would typically be playing such music and/or games)… the wooden tags in the image I am not sure about, I thought they may be name tags of the geisha, as this is how the geisha office kept tabs on which geisha were available, but they have no names on them, so this may not be the case. I am also not entirely sure how the bathhouse scene of the men fits into it.”

Name: Utagawa Kunikazu
Type: Illustrator