琵琶湖遊覽御案内 / [Lake Biwa Round Trip].
6.75 x 30 in (17.145 x 76.2 cm)
This is a scarce and beautiful 1926 bird's-eye view of Lake Biwa by Yoshida Hatsusaburō, the greatest master of his day in the genre. More specifically, it belongs to the category of sketchbook mailers (書簡圖繪), brochure-like folding views of famous sites in Japan that were very popular in the 1920s–1940s.
A Closer LookLake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan and is situated northeast of the former capital city of Kyoto. Because of its proximity to the ancient capital, references to Lake Biwa abound in Japanese literature, particularly in poetry and in historical records. This view, titled 'Bird's-eye View of Famous Sites of Lake Biwa' (琵琶湖名所鳥瞰圖), takes in the entire lake, and consequently much of the Kansai region, looking towards the west, with Kyoto and Osaka to the left, and Mt. Fuji and Tokyo to the far-right.
At left is the dock at Otsu (大津) which served as the main passenger terminal for trips around the lake, and is where the Tiako Steampship Co. (the company that distributed the map) was based. The company's two ships, the Midori Maru (みどり丸) and the Chikubu Island Maru (竹生島丸), are seen plying the lake's waters along one of several routes offered to passengers. As train travel was the primary means of intercity transportation in Japan at the time, the ferry service was well integrated with rail connections to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, which are illustrated.
The text at bottom and on the back (verso) provides information about the many important historical and cultural sites around the lake. Among the most notable are the shrines and temples on Chikubu Island (Chikubu-Shima) and the ruins of Azuchi Castle in the foreground. This castle and the entire region played an important role in the unification of Japan in the 16th century, which laid the basis for Japan's sustained unity under the Tokugawa clan.
Aside from the title and the note on front (recto) calling Yoshida the Hiroshige of the present age, the verso has a section in English catering to international tourists. Similar information is provided in greater detail in Japanese, including a description of the Midori Maru and the Chikubu Island Maru, the former of which was originally built as a service vessel for the Crown Prince of Britain (likely the future Edward VIII).
Sketchbook Mailer MapsSketchbook Mailers (書簡圖繪) were a style of bird's-eye view map that became popular in Japan in the 1920s-1940s, often depicting cityscapes from across Japan's growing empire. Each map was designed to be folded and packaged for safe and easy mailing and came with information about and photographs of the city or site on the verso, as is the case here. Although these maps are fascinating, beautiful, and educational, they also served a political function, informing Japanese audiences about the empire and providing a visual aid to understand places they would have read about frequently in the news. They also reflect the development of travel and domestic tourism in Japan as the country became wealthier in the early 20th century.
Publication History and CensusThis view was drawn by Yoshida Hatsusaburō (吉田初三郎) and published by Kankōsha (觀光社). It was distributed by Taiko Kisen Kaisha or Tiako Steampship Co. (大津市太湖汽船株式會社), a shipping company that operated passenger services around the lake. It is undated, but from context is likely from approximately 1926. We note a single cataloged example, which is held by the Nichibunken (International Research Center for Japanese Studies), and it is scarce to the market. The Nichibunken holds two additional views of Lake Biwa by Yoshida with identical or very similar titles which are also undated but likely from the 1920s. As the present edition is larger and more elaborate than the other two, it is more likely a later edition.
Yoshida Hatsusaburō (吉田初三郎, March 4, 1884 - August 16, 1955) was a Japanese illustrator and painter of birds-eye views active during the Taisho and Showa periods. Yoshida was born in Kyoto and apprenticed under Takeshiro Kanokgoi (1874 - 1941). Yoshida is significant for pioneering the use parallel perspective birds-eye views to illustrate Japanese bus and railroad transit networks. His first birds-eye view, completed in 1914, illustrated the Keihan railway and was highly praised by no less than Hirohito, then a prince but soon to be the Shōwa Emperor. With the Emperor's approval, Yoshida's views became widely popular and were adopted by the Ministry of Railways for the illustration all of its major public transportation networks. His style was so fashionable and distinctive that an entire genre was named after him (初三郎式絵図), and his works helped to spur a domestic tourism boom in the 1920s – 1930s. Most of his work consisted of city and regional views, though larger views encompassing the entirety of Japan do exist. Yoshida's most significant piece is most likely his rendering of the Hiroshima bombing, which was published in an English language magazine in 1949. He took on Tsunemitsu Kaneko as an assistant and apprentice in the early 1930s. Eventually Kaneko started making parallel perspective views of his own and became Yoshida's primary rival. Although he made over 3,000 maps in his lifetime, Yoshida was known to dedicate months to research and preparation for particular maps. For his 1949 Hiroshima map and his striking depiction of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, he adopted a journalistic approach and spoke to many survivors of the disasters.
Kankōsha (觀光社; c. 1918 – 1955), initially named Taishō Meisho Zuesha (大正名所圖繪社), was a Japanese publisher specializing in bird's eye views of famous scenic and tourist sites in Japan, especially sketchbook mailer maps (書簡圖繪). They regularly published works by with Yoshida Hatsusaburō (吉田初三郎), a master of the genre. Learn More...
Good. Wear along fold lines. Two places of earlier repair on the verso.