‘Tsuki Hyakushi’ (One Hundred Aspects of the Moon)

The moon, being visible from anywhere in the world, has been used as a motif to represent many things to many different cultures and artistic traditions around the world. The fact that this series takes the universally familiar moon as its theme is exactly why I believe it has the ability to impress the Japanese sensibility on international audiences through the comparisons that will inevitably be made. (In particular, the moon in Japan has, since the time of the Manyoshu, not been depicted as a stand-alone subject but rather in conjunction with the four seasons, natural scenery, and emotional expression, and I believe this series represents an opportunity to communicate this all the more keenly to international audiences).

While it is true that many of Yoshitoshi’s pictures incorporate multiple traditional Japanese elements, this is not the sum total of them: the richness of his depictions invites the audience into the histories and stories behind his pictures.

Appreciating Ukiyo-e is not about “seeing” them. Instead, they have long been described as something requiring the interpretation of what is depicted, something to be “read”. I believe that Yoshitoshi’s ‘Tsuki Hyakushi’ series is ideal for being “read” in this way.

Seven Old Woodblocks