All About Japan

Ukiyo-e Paintings Get a Modern-Day Makeover

| Ukiyo-e , Technology

The artist Sanjushichi Segawa has brought ukiyo-e drawings to life in a promotional campaign by IT company, NEC for their line of LaVie computers. Although animated versions exist, the paintings look just as remarkable as stills.

Christmas Shopping

This piece is based on Utagawa Hiroshige’s depiction of the Goyu-shuku post station among the "53 Stations of the Tokaido Route" (Tokaido Gojusantsugi Goyu). It shows the town decorated in Christmas lights with LaVie products being promoted as holiday presents. The narrow wooden signs hanging in the shop have advertising, such as “most lightweight in the world,” “records up to four programs,” and “high-definition display.”

The Digital Terakoya (Private School)

This picture, depicting children studying in a classroom setting, is based on Utagawa Kunisada’s work Osanarikugei no Uchi, Sho Su, a title which indicates the children are studying calligraphy (sho) and math (su) among the six basic school subjects (osanarikugei). The scene is what you might expect to see in a typical terakoya, private institutions that offered education to commoners during the Edo Period (1603-1868).

Interestingly, the problem shown on the large monitor on the desk is an actual geometry problem (yes, it can be solved!) that was submitted as a mathematical offering in 1811 to the Haruna Shrine in Gunma Prefecture, about 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

New Product Launch

This piece is based on a painting that is instantly recognizable to most people in Japan, the Taisen Hokan-zu, which captures an immensely important moment in Japanese history. The original painting by Tanryo Murata depicts the event that occurred in 1867 known as Taisei Hokan, in which political power was formally restored to the Emperor from the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan during the Edo Period, signifying the end of the age of the shoguns.

In his painting, however, Segawa has turned the historic occasion into a presentation for new product launch—quite amusing and very 21st century!

Made in Japan

In this picture, Segawa whimsically shows workers cutting out keyboards and computers from wood, possibly symbolizing the high regard in which craftsmanship is held in Japan. This piece is based on one of the "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji" (Fugaku Sanjurokkei) prints created by Katsushika Hokusai, specifically "Fuji View Field in Owari Province" (Bishu Fujimigahara).

Additionally, Segawa has included elements from another of Hokusai’s Mount Fuji prints, Honjo Tatekawa, which also depicts men hard at work.

Valentine’s Day

This picture is based on one of the works by Utagawa Kunisada from his "Isegoyomi Mitate Junichoku" series of prints. The full title of Kunisada’s original work is quite a mouthful—Ise Goyomi Mitate Junichoku Toru Gokugetsu no Mochitsuki Reki Chudan Tsukushi ("Making Rice Dumplings in the Twelfth Month from the Series Scenes for the Twelve Correspondences According to the Ise Almanac, Middle Section").

It seems like Segawa had a mouthful of chocolate as he was researching for this piece, as he says he went to multiple stores to buy the sweets that he has drawn here instead of the mochi rice dumplings in the original. And, naturally, the ladies in the picture are referring to a recipe for the sweet treats on their tablet device!

If Segawa’s animations are to your liking, there will be a few more of them released on NEC’s LaVie campaign site in the near future, so you might want to follow the site for updates. We hope you enjoyed the artistic virtual trip back in time!

Related Stories:
Tokaido ukiyoe series by Hiroshige now free to share, we celebrate with five favourites
These 19th-century Japanese miniature landscapes show that size isn’t everything
Official ukiyo-e project brings a bit of historical Japan to a galaxy far, far away

Read full story: