Fujita Shintaro: Pictorial book on penal affairs of the Tokugawa government (1893)

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Fujita Shintaro: 徳川幕府刑事圖譜 (Tokugawa bakufu keiji zufu)

This is a 1972 reprint of the classic book from 1893. It contains more than 50 large color images printed on glossy papper, in addition to 60 pages of text and sketches in black and white. In the colour-part, the first section shows crimes supposedly typical for the Tokugawa period (1603-1867). This is followed by scenes of arrest by samurai officials, often involving rope and hojo-jutsu patterns. The next section, which is the largest one, shows suspected criminals interrogated, tortured, punished, executed. Tortures are of four basic kinds: flogging, ishidaki (”pressing with stones”), ebi-zeme (”prawn-torture”) and tsuri-zeme (torture by suspension).

In the introduction to his excellent Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, Daniel V. Botsman describes how the series of images in this book ends with pictures of the more ”modern” Meji-era prisons and courts of justice. He also notes that the original edition had image captions as well as a preface in English. It goes something like this:

”Since a revolution of the first year of Meidi (1863) Japan had changed all the conditions of state, and is now at the wonderful Progress of civilization, so that it is administrated by the constitutional government. Long before the revolution Japan was governed by a Despotism of shoguns or Taikuns. The punishments of this time were very creul, so as indicated by this picturebook. No longer Japanese almost memory these creuleties, and therefore this has now become one of japanese history. The book is divided into three parts, each containing a blief explanation : 1. Commiting the crims, 2 old Punishments by shoguns, which are the plincipal subject of this work, 3 Justices of our time: On compariny these facts you will understand how Japan is presently changing and civilizating its state.”

Botsman expertly analyses the different political stakes involved in this publication, as a new era seeks legitimacy (also internationally) through its projection of the past. This is a topic to vast for my blog, but anyone interested should have a look at Botsmans book – I think there is a lot to learn also for a reflection on the political aspects of the imaginary involved in images of kinbaku, in Japan as well as abroad.

In my 1972 edition, I was puzzled not to find any English preface or captions. And at a closer scrutiny, also the last five images depicting modern times are missing. I have not been able to figure out why just yet. Fortunately, the original book is scanned in its entirety and presented here – even with english translation: http://www.meiji.ac.jp/museum/criminal/keijizufu/contents.html?mt=nm&hl=en

(The pictures lacking in my edition are numbers 56–60.)

Publisher: Shoshi kenkyukai misaki shobo (1972)

ASIN: B 000 J 9 JXJ 6

 

 

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