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Hyakunin isshu across generations


The classical Japanese anthology Hyakunin isshu 百人一首 (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each) is since at least the 14th century Japanese literature’s preeminent collection of exemplary poems. It has exercised a tremendous influence on Japanese literature, culture, and visual art and knows a long history of textual and pictorial adaptations and appropriations. In particular, the development of the woodblock printing technique aided the wider circulation of its commentaries, illustrations, adaptations, and parodies to a wider and more diverse audience from the late seventeenth century onward.

Utagawa Hiroshige. Ono no Komachi 小野小町 from the series Imitations of the Ogura One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each (Ogura nazorae hyakunin isshu 小倉擬百人一首), 1845. Photograph © National Diet Library Digital Collections.

The overall aim of this project is to conduct a comparative study of how the Japanese woodblock print artists Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川広重 (1797–1858) and his successor Utagawa Hiroshige III 三代歌川広重 (1842–1894) interpreted the classical anthology Hyakunin isshu in woodblock-printed illustrated books (ehon 絵本). The books that are subjected to an in-depth analysis are the following two books:

  1. Hyakunin isshu jokunshō 百人一首女訓抄 (Annotated Lessons for Women of One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each; 1848, reissued in 1849, 1851, and 1858) illustrated by Hiroshige

  2. Kaika kyōkun: Dōge hyakunin isshu 開化教訓: 道戯百人一首 (Lessons in Civilization: One Hundred Poets, One Humorous Poem Each; 1883) illustrated and edited by Hiroshige III


For this research project, I became a research fellow at the Berlin State Library from July to August 2022 and was awarded two research grants, one from the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and another from the Research Foundation Flanders.

Results were presented on three occasions:

  1. “Hyakunin isshu and the Hiroshige studio: Utagawa Hiroshige’s take on the classical Japanese anthology,” Wissenswerkstatt / Werkstattgespräche, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin (online), November 3, 2022.

  2. “Hyakunin isshu in geïllustreerde boeken: Focus op Utagawa Hiroshige III,” Boekhistorisch Forum, KU Leuven, Leuven, November 25, 2022.​

  3. “One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each Across Generations: The Hiroshige Studio and the Classical Anthology,” Perspective: South and East Asia, Ghent University, March 14, 2023.

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