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Japanese Woodblock Prints

January 9, 2012

The desire to comment or respond to what is going on around one seems to be something that is inherent in all humans (i.e.┬ácave paintings, hieroglyphs, tattoos, twitter), especially upheaval that humans can’t control like natural disasters. In Japan the editorial cartoon became something of an art form. In addition to providing humor and social commentary, many of these editorial prints also claimed to offer protection from future natural disasters. Check out the pinktentacle site to learn more about Namazu-e.

In November 1855, the Great Ansei Earthquake struck the city of Edo (now Tokyo), claiming 7,000 lives and inflicting widespread damage. Within days, a new type of color woodblock print known as namazu-e became popular among the residents of the shaken city. These prints featured depictions of mythical giant catfish (namazu) who, according to popular legend, caused earthquakes by thrashing about in their underground lairs.