Utagawa Kuniyoshi, goldfishes ukiyo-e prints (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.

Sake no zashiki (Drinking party)

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

Hyaku-monogatari (A hundred horror stories)

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 also made the woodblock printings of Hyaku-monogatari

Niwaka amenbou (Sudden rain water striders)

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.

Sarai tonbi (Kite carrying off)

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.

Ikada-nori (Boatsman)

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

Sosano'o no mikoto

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

Tama-ya (Soap bubble seller)

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.

Bon-bon (On the Way to Bon Festival)

Obon (お盆) is one of the Japanese traditional custom to welcome the spirits of their ancestors on August 13th and send them back on the 16th. In Edo Period, girls sang a song and walked on rows around the city, holding hands each other.

Matoi (Firemen)

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 burnt out instantly. They destroyed the structures around the point for preventing fire from spreading out.

Title: “All kind of goldfishes (金魚づくし, Kingyo-zukushi)”

Author: Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Year: Circa 1830-1844

Related artworks

If you want to enjoy Japanese artworks of painting, print, and craft everyday, check the Twitter account of Masterpiece of Japan!


You can also see the tweets on the sidebar!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.