Kawanabe Kyosai 河鍋 暁斎: Mount Akiba 秋葉山 Tengu Nest

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Artist: Kawanabe Kyōsai 河鍋 暁斎
Title:  Mount Akiba 秋葉山 

A group of tengu are shown in their mountain home of a hollow pine tree, busily cooking and serving a feast to a gathering of their own, who sit in a lovely branch-nest of the tree. They are oblivious to the shogun’s procession below, which can be seen snaking along the road in perfect formation. There seems to be a full moon rising, so perhaps that is the occasion of the tengu’s celebration. Kyosai here seems to show his own irreverence towards this government formality, creating an amusing scene of human-like yokai, where the procession is the least interesting aspect of the picture. The deity Akiba Gongen is considered the manifestation of Mount Akiba, and he has some of the aspects of the magical tengu. In the 19th century tengu were seen as the protectors of certain forests, and were considered beneficial kami in some areas of Japan. Looking from bottom to top at the scene in the tree, at bottom a tengu raises his knife to fillet a fish; above him a tengu stokes the stove, while another stirs a soup pot. Then a tengu fills a container with sake, which seems to bear one of Kyosai’s signatures, as he was famously fond of drink. There is a ladder where one tengu hands a large bowl to his compatriot, while other tengu carry serving trays with covered lacquer bowls, holding them high while they walk along the pine branch, towards a gathering of five tengu who are making merry, one consuming sake from an enormous cup. Only one tengu is shown looking down at the procession. The tengu shown are both types of tengu; some have long noses and some have birdlike beaks. 

From the series known as the Processional Tokaido, which was  commissioned by the authorities to promote the shogun’s procession from Edo to Kyoto in 1863. Sixteen of the major print artists of the time were enlisted for this large project, from the youthful Yoshitoshi to the elderly Kunisada. Here Kyosai has chosen to capture an indirect and amusing view with his sharp sense of humor and yokai specialization

Series: Scenes of Famous Places along the Tokaido Road (also known as the Processional Tokaido) Tokaido meisho fukei

Date: 1863
Condition: Excellent impression and color; very good condition. Minor areas of repaired wormage in margins and one spot next to tree trunk.
Dimensions:  35.3 x 23.9 cm
Publisher: FukuchuDaiokuya Kinnosuke

Signed: Oju (by request) Chikamaro

Literature: Andreas Marks, When the Shogun Travels to Kyoto: The Great Processional Tokaido Series, in Andon 81, Society for Japanese Arts, 2007, cat. no. 27A (73); Kawanabe Collection Catalog, Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum, 2008, p. 29, no. 734; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, accession nos. 11.16606; 11.44795; 11.44868; 2009.5009.74.