Kitagawa Utamaro’s art woodblcok prints of Okita

(Last Updated On: 19/07/2019)

Among the ukiyo-e artists in Japan, Kitagawa Utamaro was second to none in beautiful woman portrait(bijinga). He painted various pictures of middle class women in Edo, but especially Naniwa-ya Okita appeared in many works. 

But originally she was only a town girl.




The woman who is in the right of “Three beauties of the present day”

Three beauties of the present day
Three beauties of the present day

Three beauties of the present day“ (当世三美人)  is well known for people as well as his ukiyo-e pictures of woman reading letter, playing a poppin and holding a fan. From the left to right, three women are Takashima-ya  Ohisa, Tomimoto Toyohina and Naniwa-ya Okita.

They were three beautiful women who were the most popular among the middle class people in this era of Kansei. Ohisa was the daughter of the shop owner of senbei (Japanese rice cracker), Toyohina was the geisha of Yoshiwara and Okita was the drawing card of the public teahouse.

Other Naniwa-ya Okita prints

Okita (left) and Ofuji (right)
Okita (left) and Ohisa (right)

Who is Okita?

She was born in 1778 as a daughter of a Naniwa-ya, a public teahouse within the precincts of Sensoji temple. In Japan there is a word called kanban-musume(看板娘) who is beautiful girl and attracts customers. Since around 1750, some of the tea houses in Edo had them and got popularity.

Okita also became the kanban-musume for Naniwa-ya. And Utamaro drew her woodblock print for the first time in 1793 when she was 16 years old. Most of the girls didn’t wait on the customers but she did as the pictures show her appearance of bringing the green tea.

She was so charming and did good service. In no time, lots of people came to Naniwa-ya and Sensoji temple to see her. Occationally, the crowd disturbed their business and she sprinkled to drive them away. But some stood on a wooden bucket and tried to look her.

Utamaro continued to paint Okita and left the most works about her through his artist life.

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