By SACHI MATSUMOTO/ Staff Writer
March 6, 2020 at 07:10 JST
Recently discovered folding screens show what life was like in a bustling castle town on Tsushima island between Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
The pair of six-fold screens, each more than 1.6 meters tall, feature a carefully reproduced bird’s-eye view of the castle town and are expected to provide important clues to the circumstances of Tsushima island, a hub for trade in those days.
A guest house on the left end of the left screen is believed to have been built to welcome a Korean delegation to Japan in 1811, so the paintings are estimated to have been created around that time.
“The screens may have been painted at the request of the lord of the Tsushima domain to celebrate the completion of construction work in the castle town immediately before the arrival of the Korean delegation,” said Yasumasa Oka, director of the Kobe City Koiso Memorial Museum of Art.
The Tsushima Fuchu Hitomezu Byobu folding screens were bought by an individual in Tokyo after it was placed in an antiques market in autumn 2018. An examination by Oka confirmed them as showing Tsushima island.
Each painting on the screens is 165 centimeters tall and 362 cm wide. While the domain lord’s residence is shown on the right screen, Kaneishi Castle and what is now Izuhara Port are featured on the left one.
People on their knees welcoming what appears to be a procession of the domain lord as well as buildings in the town are finely depicted. The screens are covered with gold leaf to reproduce haze, creating a gorgeous ambience.
The screens are more than seven times larger than another six-fold screen with a similar composition that was owned by the So family, lord of the Tsushima domain. The smaller screen, 88.2 cm tall and 181.8 cm wide, is kept as part of an important cultural property at the Kyushu National Museum.
Tadashi Kobayashi, a professor emeritus of art history at Gakushuin University, who serves as chief editor of the art magazine Kokka, said the newly found screens are “extremely interesting.”
“While geographical features are depicted in detail, folk aspects, such as how people lived in the town back then, are also incorporated,” Kobayashi said.
The Kokka issue released on Feb. 20 featured details of the folding screens.
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