Utagawa Kuniyoshi, goldfish ukiyo-e prints (Kingyo zukushi)

All kind of goldfish(金魚づくし, Kingyo-zukushi)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi(1798-1861) was an ukiyo-e artist who was good at coming up with an ingenious plan for the works. He created woodblock printings freely and drawn a wide range of pictures from impressive to cute.



Kingyo-zukushi is one of the gi-ga(戯画) that the theme is funny picuture. Kuniyoshi personified goldfishes in the 9 ukiyo-e prints and expressed humorously the life of middle class people. Because a lot of them had goldfishes and it would be really familiar and enjoy the printings.




[su_label type=”black”]Sake no zashiki(Drinking party)[/su_label]


drinking party


The cheerful drinking party! This side of goldfish plays the shamisen and other two dance with the tadpole(half flog).



[su_label type=”black”]Hyakumonogatari(A hundred horror stories)[/su_label]



Hyakumonogatari was the popular style of a gathering for horror story. Participants told horror or odd stories and blew out fire one by one until all of 100 candles extinguished. When the room turned completely dark, gohosts or monster would show up…  Katsushika Hokusai made the woodblock printings of Hyakumonogatari


In this images, Japanese traditional bake-neko(monster cat) threaten the golfishes.




[su_label type=”black”]Niwaka amenbou(Sudden rain water striders)[/su_label]



In Japanese, rain is “ame”(雨) and water strider is “amenbo”(アメンボ). So the prints shows the playing on the words. The goldfishes get flustered with a shower of the insects.



[su_label type=”black”]Sarai tonbi(Carrying off kite)[/su_label]



When something important deprived, Japanese say “be carried deep‐fried tofu off by kite”. The ukiyo-e prints shows the idiom. Of course, the kite becomes the goldfish.



[su_label type=”black”]Ikada-nori(Raftsman)[/su_label]



In Edo Period, a boatman is the most popular job as well as a scaffold constructor. They fold their fin like the boatman tuck up the skirt at the working.



[su_label type=”black”]Sosanoo no mikoto(Susanoo)[/su_label]



Susanoo(素戔嗚) is the god of Japanese myth. The center goldfish Susanoo fight with the eel as Yamata no orochi(八岐大蛇, eight-headed, eight-tailed serpent). The right gold fish is the goddess Kushinada hime(櫛名田比売).



[su_label type=”black”]Tama-ya Tama-ya(Soap bubble seller)[/su_label]



A soap bubble seller walked around the city of Edo and sold the liquid for children. Tama-ya(玉屋)  was famous for the business.




[su_label type=”black”]Bon-bon(Bon song)[/su_label]



Obon(お盆) is the Japanese traditional custom to welcom the spirits of their ancesters on August 13th and send them back on the 16th. In Edo Period, the girls hold hands each other, sing a song and walk on rows around the city.




[su_label type=”black”]Matoi(Fireman’s standard)[/su_label]




A fireman was the symbolic job for Edo. As a trueborn “Edokko”(Edo man), Utagawa Kuniyoshi also liked the fire and fight. The fireman in Edo didn’t extinguish fire with water because the wooden houses couldn’t be. So they destroyed the structures around the point.




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