Klaus-Dieter Kreplin charly@charly.ping.de

Request for further information

Japanese photo & poems book


I request for further information about the book described below, especially contents or translation of the text pages.
Any support welcome to above e-mail address.


Got an old japanese photo & poems book (origin ca. 1900), reported not to be in the catalogue of Tokyo (city ?) library (it was a private print). Got some first translation and explanations; that proves difficult because each page includes different types of writing.

Some more information on the book.

The introductory text pages are fully scanned. First page (relating to cover of book):

"This is a painting of the moon"

Further introductory pages have been scanned in two overlapping parts, as they were bigger than folio/legal format.

(2) (3) (4) (5)

132 (if I counted right) thicker pages with photos and opposite thin japanese paper with related text. Add the preface picture with moon and bird. Photos on most of the pages are full-page and printed in monochrome colour, subsequent pages all in different colours. Colours not very bright, would not fit to motive and to Japanese style of book. Colours: brown, red, violet, green, grey (different colours!), blue, orange etc. often very "zart" as we say in German. I am not sure that there are even two pages with the same colour. Text always in black.

Motives: Nature, Japanese buildings, "modern" technical buildings. I took one of each group.

I have scanned:

No. 19 water & ships & fishers with olive colour

No. 29 Japanese building (temple?), also olive but a little bit different colour

No. 34 with lighting tower(?) & persons, dark-brown in colour.

It seems that each paper & text have a composition, but probably also the book as a whole with changes between different types of motive and colour.

Some colours will be difficult to scan I think.

Get full size: text photos (.zip-files, large)

Explanations received until now (06 May 2002):


In the first step to find out more about that book, I went to the Museum of Eastasian Art in Cologne, Germany. Those people whom I contacted knew some Japanese and had some dictionaries and biographical handbooks available. As a result of their investigation they found out the following:

1998, Köln
A Chinese friend told me he was not able to read the book because the chinese letters were mixed too much with Japanese ones.
1998, Dortmund

Dear Klaus-Dieter

I checked in the Library about your questions. But unfortunately 1 could'nt find out. Jagioka/Fuko is not in the Name-Directory,1 think each monochrome photo and some Japanease (Old style) text is simply an explanation of the photo's background information, and other Kanbun (Chinese style) like English Grammer, not easy to read but: For first brief content, two person wrote a preface about this books. I'm not sure the title but looks like "Ninsen Chisui Chou" lt means Human, Mountain,Water stream book. „San sui“ is very famous painting in China and Japan. In this preface it is said 300 pictures included and in Kobe.

I'll try to ask some expert of Kanbun to full analysis. Sorry for not so well assistance. Have a happy new year.

Best Regards,

Later personal communication: Each page with photos seems to go from rather concrete things, usually(?) starting from relations to the photo contents, to more general and then philosophical and/or poetic themes.This can be said to be typical Japanese style.

First interpretation steps (more would have taken much time that was not available), notes from that:

1999, Tokyo et al.

Hello, Charly,

There are a few things for background, I should tell you.

First, since the book was written, four Emperors have been in power. There is a separate dating system for each Imperial leader.

The book was written in the Meiji era. Next was the Taisho era which was only 15 years from 1912-1925 and he was a weak emperor. Next was the Showa Emperor 1926-1988-89 (one week for his final year but still counted!(He was known in western countries as Hirohito but never ever called this in Japan!) He, of course, was the Emperor during WWII and died in 1988 or 1989. His son, is now the Heisei Emperor and we are in the 12th year of his reign. All government-related dating systems such as banks, post offices, schools, parliament, etc. are based on these dating systems and not on the Christian calendar. So, although 2000 is understood, it is not often used except on some unofficial calendars.
That said, the book you have, was written in Meiji 35 which was 1902. I don't need to get too involved in Japanese history, but should add that Japan was closed to the outside world for roughly 300 years during the fuedal EDO era with the Shogunate and Daimyo, samurai, etc. which came to an end about 1867 when the Meiji Emperor was given power. That would have been Meiji 1. The Meiji era continued onto Meiji 44 or 1911.

Enough of that!

Next, the Japanese writing system itself has undergone major changes much like that of the German script but so much so to make it illegible to the untrained younger generation.

Nowadays, the writing uses two phonetic alphabets (one for Japanese verb tenses, prepositions, conjunctions, etc. and the other for foreign-originating words like "television", "coffee", etc.) side by side with Chinese characters used for the root words.
The text you have is written only in Chinese characters with no phonetical forms for the larger hand-written pages. Yet the smaller printed pages are mixed with Chinese characters and phonetical letters.

The larger hand-written pages are signed by two people with the surnames on top and the first name on the bottom accompanied with their own official seals to the left of each name. One idea is that it is written in a rather poetry like style and may have also been copied.

The printed pages say the date of printing of these pages which was June 1, Meiji 35 (or 1902) and publishing was June 10th, 1902.
It says "not for sale" below the date in parentheses. This can indicate that the book was made as a gift for someone at the request of someone. The publisher is YAGI Tomitsugu of 5-46 Nagasa Dori (street name), Kobe city.
The other two names are only the name of MITSUMURA printing and publishing and we can assume that Mr. YAGI is the owner of the Mitsumura company.
Picture of the people in the water are in the Tokyo Bay around Shinagawa and the tide has gone out and they are digging for clams. The boat might be a drinking boat and river cruise boat but not likely a real fishing boat because of the roof. (My husband comes from a fishing town and you can see these kind of boats in old Japanese movies. They still can be hired in Tokyo for night cruises.)

The picture on the sea side with the lighthouse that was designed by a French designer (no name written), are of fashionable men and a woman and it is Nojima Cape (Nojimasaki) and on a map can be found at the tip of Chiba prefecture along with Shirahamamura which appears in the text. (CHIBA is to the east of Tokyo across the Tokyo Bay). They are wearing the white suits of the west popular at the time for those who tried to absorb western culture.

You are right, the building Buddhist temple and the cemetary are in Chiba and could be a rare photo of one of the many temples that may have been burned in WWII.

Very unusual to use photographs in printed form.
None of these stories seem to be related and all seem to be about the area around Tokyo. My husband does not understand the meaning of the hand-written letter and thinks it is a poem of some kind and mentions Kobe which is where the book was published.
Our questions: why isn't it for sale?
Could it be a textbook for someone to introduce the area around Tokyo?
Here's an idea, maybe that company in KOBE -MITSUMURA Publishing, still exists and might be interested in paying to have it sent back to them. I am wondering how to find the company. I can try but can't promise any results. KOBE (on the Osaka Bay) was a huge international port and was also home to many Jewish refugees that came from China. It is still an important city and in 1996 the Kobe Earthquake took some 5000 lives and the city was basically rebuilt. So, the address in the book likely no longer exists.
2000, Fujino, Japan (west of Tokyo)

The imprint "hibahin" (not for sale) is still nowadays common in Japan and simply means that the book was a present, either to friends acquaintances etc., or to participants of an (official?) celebration, a congress etc.

I can name e.g. the following occasions:

The edition of these private prints is low, from 30 to some 200 (bigger companies.

The reason of the imprint is to avoid a sale by company employees or lower official charged with distribution.

Maybe for these editions the law of deposit copies is not valid. But this is a theme by itself for Japan.

2001, Frankfurt am Main