Kiyochika: Children's Education: Picture of a Primary School (Sold)

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Artist: Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)
Title: Children’s Education: Picture of a Primary School (kun-dô: shôgakkô kyôdô no zu) 訓童 小学校教導図
Date: 1874

Fascinating and detailed view of the new US-style teaching system, here taking place in a palace-like school for the upper class children of Tokyo. Beneath an enormous glass chandelier we see a single room with a large red carpet and wallpaper on the walls; an entirely western style decor. This triptych was published only two years after gakusei, the first National Order of Education (1872), which promoted the spirit of the Meiji government to educate all the children of Japan.  It was modeled after the American educational system. This new educational plan spread quickly due to the fact that the traditional Edo private teaching houses such as teragoya (one-teacher learning houses), private schools run by clans and samurai families and kyo gakko, (village teaching houses) all carried out the Order. The new system included many of the old traditions; as far as the school uniforms, we see the ladies wearing hakama skirts with traditional hair styles, and men also wear hakama, but their hair styles are already Western and two wear hats. We see some Chinese teachers (or perhaps teachers in Chinese clothing). We may assume that Chinese instructors were still teaching in the first period of the school system since the traditional basic education in the Edo Period was the Chinese language.

We see four different classes taking place: The teacher in Chinese clothing on the right teaches younger children words from the tango (words) chart that shows many types of plants. The female instructor teaches the next grade the meaning of compound words from collocation, pointing at the rengo chart on the wall. In the center the teacher sits in front of his class while students seems to be writing at their desks. On the left the teacher uses a blackboard for another grade. Outside, beyond the western-style porch we see two boys enjoying swinging from a tree branch as a third boy plays on a wooden horse. Other children are seen gleefully running on the manicured grounds.

Karasawa Ruriko of the Karasawa Museum in Tokyo uses this triptych to introduce the Meiji school in its infancy.* She explains that as soon as the First National Order of Education System was proclaimed in 1872, the first shihan gakkô (schools for teachers) were established in Tokyo to train future teachers. At this school Mr. M.M. Scott created the teaching program and Tsuboi Gendó was his translator, who made the following description: “The school had to be western style, using desks and chairs and scrapping (the) tatami floor, although the wooden floor underneath was full of holes. They introduced the West from the first form.“ 

The school room was open-class, and four classes were taught in one hall. They did not employ traditional man-to-man traditional teaching in the Edo Period, but one teacher for many students. They learned from large charts which were fashioned after the ones used in the schools of USA. For the younger students, a male teacher teaches single word of things and a female teacher teaches rengo. This system was question and answer system. Karasawa komments that her museum has this chart of the single word III (daisan tango zu) and the blackboard on the right is original, which Mr. Scott had imported. It was used to teach mathematics and how to write Japanese characters stroke by stroke.

The artist’s signature Nikutei Karyô 肉亭夏良 is considered to be a gô 号 of Kiyochika because the signature Nikutei Karyô used together with  a personal seal chika 親in square.  It is said that he used this name before he used his later name, Kobayashi Kiyochika for his works. The following are the works signed Nikutei Karyô: (Yamamairi makenu kishô) 山参り強気情 (1873), (Byakko-tai eiyú no kagami)白虎隊英勇鑑 (1874), (Tokyo kaika meishô) 東京開化名勝 (1875) Kawanabe Kyosai worked with him for that work. [With thanks to Michiko Sato-Grube for her above research.]

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Some minor wrinkles. Unbacked and untrimmed.
Dimensions: ôban triptych
Publisher: Ise-ya Rebei 伊勢屋利兵衞板

Literature: *Karasawa Ruriko: "The Infancy of Modern Schools Depicted in Nishiki-e“ (Nishiki-e ni egagareta kinndai gakkô yôran-ki). She studies Nishiki-e sugoroku game by Hiroshige III "Tokyo shógakkó kyóju sugoroku“ (1878). See the Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University.
Signature: Nikutei Karyó ga 肉亭夏良 筆