Edo [Tokyo]? NP, ca. 1863. First edition. Softcover. Quarto. 9 1/2 x 6 3/4". Unpaginated. 36 double-sided French fold-style leaves. Beige rice paper wrappers with black woodblock printing on the front cover. This unique manuscript recounts the punishments, executions and political assassinations of a various of individuals charged with serious crimes during the end of the Edo period (Bakumatsu), during the reign of Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi (徳川家茂, 1846 – 1866), the second to last Shogun of Japan. Calligraphic manuscript text in black ink throughout, detailing crimes and punishments, accompanied by gruesome color illustrations, displaying bound criminals, mutilated limbs and decapitated heads on poles. The images are in woodblock printing and watercolor, including some gilt over-painting. The criminals range from prominent political dissidents to sex offenders. The 24 well drawn color illustrations are of impaled heads and tied up indivisuals with one including architectual setting. The author is unknown at this time.
Among the political dissidents assassinated who are in included in the book are:
- Seiichiro Honma (本間精一郎, 1834-1862) an anti-Shogunate dissident samurai.
- Juzo Ogawara (おおがわら じゅうぞう), Magoroku Mori (もり まごろく) and Kinzaburo Watanabe (わたなべ きんざぶろう), three of four Kyoto yoriki (officials) loyal to the Shogunate, who were assassinated on road to Edo on November 14th, 1862.
- Hajime Kagawa, a Kyoto doctor and official charged with plotting against the Emperor.
- Yuso Ofuji (Takamasa Fujii, 藤井高雅).
The killings of Honma, Mori, Ogawara, Watanabe and Kagawa, were all part of a spate of fifteen politicaly-motivated assassinations occurring from August of 1862 - March of 1863, which have all been attributed to the involvement of Okada Izō (岡田 以蔵, 1838-1865) an Imperial loyalist, who was one of the most feared and respected warriors and assassins of the period.
The prominent display of these executions was to serve as public deterrence, strike fear into the hearts of the population, and in some cases to display the continued strength of the Shogunate in preserving law and order, during a tumultuous period. During this time, there was continuous political turmoil, as many factions within Japan had become weary of Tokugawa rule and their handling of various matters (specifically those issues related to relations with foreign powers), with many in Japan wanting the return of power to the Imperial court. There were already many dissident voices among the general populace and certain factions of the Japanese elite. The people charged with political crimes here seem to have been from both sides of the dispute - both claimed Shogunate and Imperial loyalists.
It seems that similar type manuscripts were common during this period and served to disseminate information and news by hand. During the time of Tokugawa period there where no newspapers in Japan, in the modern sense, and the dissemination of news and current events was solely allowed to be in the hands of the Shogunate.
Text in Japanese.
Wrappers with some creases and light rubbing to extremities. Light scratches and smudges to the covers. Title page with the front section of the leaf cut out at the top. Some creasing to pages throughout. Wrappers in very good-, interior in very good condition overall. vg- to vg. Item #46584
* A printed slip of paper has been tipped on to the title page, with the printed text "Hobby in Edo" (江戸趣味). As to weather this was included ironically or for some other reason is unknown.