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Kyōsai hyakuzu, A Water Imps Fart (Kappa no he)


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

A Water Imps Fart

(Kappa no he)

from the series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

by Kawanabe Kyōsai, c. 1863-1866

IHL Cat. #464

About this Print and the Series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

The Print

This print depicts a legendary kappa (water-imp) farting, sending two fishermen flying.  While the literal translation of Kappa no he 河童の屁 is "a water-imp's fart" it carries the meaning "good for nothing."

In commenting on this print, the catalog from a 1996 exhibition Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai states "...here Kyōsai has shown a kappa whose fart is so strong that fishermen fly away, making them truly good-for-nothing."1

For a fascinating discussion of kappas and flatulence see Jerry Vegder's website http://www.printsofjapan.com/Yoshitoshi_kappa_control.htm

1 Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyosai (Gyōsai no giga, kyōga ten), Shigeru Oikawa; Timothy Clark; et. al, Tōkyō Shinbun, 1996, p. 218, cat. #122-10.

Variant Printing 

The Series
Source: Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai, Oikawa Shigeru, Clark Timothy and Forrer Matthi, Tokyo Shinbun, 1996, p. 206.
This print was issued as part of the series the Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai) which consists of more than 200 pictorializations of proverbs and depictions of famous subjects unrelated to proverbs. The prints were published continuously from 1863 to 1866* by the publisher Wakasaya and the works were later reprinted in album form by the publisher Ōkura Magobei (Ōkuraya) in 1881 and 1886.  The prints in this collection are likely from one of Ōkura Magobei's reprint editions, as they show evidence of having been removed from an album. 

One hundred of the proverbs depicted in Kyōsai hyakuzu were translated into French in 1885 under the titleCent Proverbes Japonais by Francis Steenackers and Ueda Tokunosuke.

This print series was very popular, enhancing Kyōsai's reputation and making a large profit for the publishers.

*1863-1866 are the most common publication dates provided for these prints, though the literature cites dates as early as 1862 for the first publication date and reprints of this series are still being made.  The prints were first issued by publisher Wakasaya Yoichi (aka Jakurindō Yoichi) as single-sheet prints, sold in ten print packages in a decorative envelope.  Ōkura Magobei (aka Yorozuya Magobei) re-published the prints in bound book/album form in the 1880s.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description A Water Imps Fart
 の屁 (かっぱの屁) Kappa no he 
 Artist  Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
 Series Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai)
Kyōsai giga 狂斎戯画
 Seal of the Artist None
 Publication Date likely c. 1880s (originally c. 1863-1866)
 Publisher Ōkura Magobei - originally issued by Wakasaya Yoichi and then reprinted in book form by Ōkura Magobei
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - original album backing
 Genre ukiyo-e; giga (comic print)
 Format koban [vertical yotsugiri (quarter ōban)]
 H x W Paper
 7 1/8 x 4 3/4 in. (18.1 x 12.1 cm)
 H x W Image 
 Collections This Print
 Reference Literature
 Gyōsai no giga, kyōga ten, Shigeru Oikawa; Timothy Clark; et. al, Tōkyō Shinbun, 1996, p. 210, cat. #122-10.