[Osaka]: [Darumaya Shoten], 1926. Single volume, measuring 11 x 8.25 inches: fourteen unnumbered folded leaves, printed rectos only. Original green pictorial cloth stamped in black, orange pastedown label to upper board, pictorial endpapers printed in pale green. Twelve double-page hand-colored woodblock prints, some heightened with metallic inks; two folded leaves of text. Light offsetting and occasional stray mark to prints. Without publisher’s box.
First edition of this series of twelve vibrantly hand-colored woodblock prints by the Japanese artist Kawasaki Kyosen (1877-1942), a dedicated chronicler of the ephemeral folk toys and talismans known as omocha. Circulating among both adults and children, omocha were miniature objects with ritualistic significance, crafted of local materials, exchanged to mark milestones and religious holidays, and discarded in time. Historically, each village had its own omocha tradition, so that the field reflected the cultural diversity of Japan. (Josef Kyburz, “Omocha,” Asian Folklore Studies, 1994). The turn of the twentieth century saw a vogue for collecting and classifying omocha, and publishers catered to that market with colorful woodblock prints known as omocha-e, which ranged from straightforward “toy pictures” to interactive paper dolls, board games, and cut-paper dioramas. Kyosen’s approach to omocha and omocha-e diverged starkly from the faddish collectors’ market. He viewed omocha as a living tradition, and decried the increasing standardization of Japanese toys under Western industrial influence. As a young man, Kyosen had apprenticed with a kabuki printmaker; the dynamic compositions of dolls, animals, and charms in his omocha-e prints reflect his keen sense of staging. Kyosen’s decision to offer his prints as bound volumes, as he did with the twelve images collected in Omocha Junikagetsu, published to coincide with Children’s Day in 1926, most clearly reflects the seriousness he brought to the study of these ephemeral folk objects. See Tara McGowan, “The Designs of Kawasaki Kyosen,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, 2013. A near-fine example of a scarce and striking book.