The Unknown "Kasuga Shrine" Print of Hasui KAWASE

Hasui's seemingly unknown "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" Print (ca1933-35)

Hasui's Unknown "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" Print (ca1933-35)

To collectors of Japanese woodblock prints by the artist KAWASE Hasui, the striking 1933 summertime image titled "Kasuga Shrine at Nara" ("Nara Kasuga Jinsha") published by Watanabe Publisher is quite well known (Narazaki #222). As such, it is among the handful of highly sought-after "red temple images" coveted by these collectors (see below, right). Much rarer, however, is the seemingly undocumented and very seldom seen "look-alike" print published by Shimbi Shoin Publisher (below, left) titled "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" (ca1933-35).

So apparently rare is this largely "unknown" Hasui print, that it is NOT listed in the comprensive 1979 catalogue raisonné of Hasui's works, the "Narazaki reference," titled in Japanese as "Kawase Hasui Mokuhangashu" ("The Complete Works of Kawase Hasui").

Further supporting the apparent rarity of this "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" print is the fact that we have previously seen ONLY one other copy first-hand.

(NOTE: At the time of this article's writing, it is not yet known if the new, soon-to-be-released Hotei-published, "Kawase Hasui -- The Complete Woodblock Prints" (by Kendall H. Brown & Shoichiro Watanabe) will contain this previously "unknown/undocmented" print. SEE "Update" at bottom.)

Shimbi Shoin's "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" (ca1933-35) -- Watanabe's "Kasuga Shrine at Nara" (1933)

Shimbi Shoin Publisher

Althought this "winter Kasuga" print itself bears no title, no date, nor any publisher's identification on the print itself, according to the "Board of Tourist Industy -- Japanese Government Railways" sticker which is attached to the verso of this print's "presentation folder," we now know that this "winter-version Kasuga" print is published by Shimbi Shoin Publisher of Tokyo (sticker states: "Art Printer: Shimbishoin, Gizna, Tokyo").

Merritt's "Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975" barely mentions Shimbi Shoin Publisher, stating only: "Shinbi Shoin. Published art books and an extensive collection of woodblock facsimiles of classic pictures 1905-1915. Later printed shin-hanga."

Another even more comprehensive (but as yet UN-published) reference tells us a bit more, stating: "Shinbi Shoin: Tokyo; 1905-1936; artists served: IWATA Sentaro, KAWASE Hasui, KAWATSURA Yoshio. Also produced Chinese and Japanese woodblock reproductions." At least, it seems, that this reference's author (name undisclosed) may perhaps be aware of this Hasui print.

In any case, seemingly very little is widely known about the relationship between the obscure publisher Shimbi Shoin and artist KAWASE Hasui.

Shinbi Shoin Publisher's "Print Identification Sticker" (ca1933-35)

Shimbi Shoin's unusual Red Oval "Ha-Sui" Seal

It's also interesting for collectors to note that this apparently quite rare Hasui print does not bear the "usual" Japanese Hasui "signature/seal" combination (the larger red circle with 3 "tear-drops" inside, along with Hasui's black "signature" above).

Shimbi Shoin's unusual Red Oval "Ha-Sui" Seal

Instead, the publisher Shinbi Shoin has chosen to use a tiny, rather unusual red oval "Ha-Sui" seal as their print's identification as to the artist Hasui. This horizonatal-format red oval "Ha-Sui" seal is thusly quite similar to the vertical-format red oval "Ha-Sui" seal seen on smaller Watanabe-published "postcard" prints. Other than this simple "Ha-Sui" seal, this Shimbi Shoin-published "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" print itself bears no other title, date, or any publisher's identification directly on the print itself.

The "Rarity Factor"

Althought certainly not precise, one rough "measurement" of a given print's rarity is the "number of sightings" reported by collectors over an extended period of time (Marc Kahn uses this "method" at his website to compare the assumed "pre-earthquake" vs "post-earthquake" prints). Here, although we have no other accumulated data to point to, we can tell you that in well over ten years of very active print collecting we have only encountered this "winter Kasuga" print ONE time previously. Contrasting this "frequency" with that of many other more commonly-encountered of Hasui's prints--a number of which are seen for sale several times monthly--it is clear to us that this Shinbi Shoin-published print was certainly not made in great numbers.

Your Help is Needed....

To help gain some perhaps useful additional information about the relative number of copies which exist of this print, we would like to encourage any Hasui collectors worldwide who may own this "winter Kasuga" print in their collections to kindly contact us.

Shimbi Shoin's "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" Print in its original "Presentation Folder"

Possible Dating of this Print

Although at present we have no means by which to precisely "date" this print, we do already know that its publisher, Shinbi Shoin (of Tokyo), apparently ceased doing business in 1936.

It further seems "reasonable"--due to the strikingly similar image designs of these two "winter Kasuga" and "summer Kasuga" prints--to make the assumption that quite likely the Shinbi Shoin "winter Kasuga" print was taken after the 1933 Watanabe "summer Kasuga" design. Of course, we have no proof of this (it's rather like the: "which came first--the chicken or the egg?" question), but our sense as longtime observers of Japanese prints makes this seem reasonable.

Hence, it seems likely that this "winter Kasuga" Hasui print most likely dates to the period of between 1933 to 1935. (Perhaps the "new Hasui Reference" will soon tell us more. SEE immediately below.)

Update: Book "Kawase Hasui -- The Complete Woodblock Prints" (July 2003)

As it turns out, the long-awaited and much anticipated Hasui reference, "Kawase Hasui -- The Complete Woodblock Prints" published by Hotei Publishing, DOES INDEED contain this "winter Kasuga" print. It's shown there on the same page 450 (as Print #H-317-A), alongside the well-known "summer Kasuga" design (as Print #H-317). Beyond that, little information is given (no mention of Publisher), except only to mention (page 98): "A smaller undated version of the same design without a publisher's seal also exists."

Clearly, it seems, the woodblock print collecting community knows little more about this print.

Update #2 (June 2004): Ebay Auction Sighting Yeilds Positive Dating via attached "1936 Calendar"

A good friend of ours, Peter Belsito (of Atlanta, GA), has recently run across what is now listed below as our "5th sighting" of this rare Hasui print. In the case of his print, still attached across its lower face is a tiny "Jan-Dec 1936 calendar"--hence, we now have reasonable "proof positive" as to the likely dating of this Shinbi Shoin published Hasui print as being 1935. Hence, we now conclude the original date of this Hasui print to be 1935--bearing a "Jan-Dec 1936" calendar, certainly the likely production run for these prints was done sometime prior during 1935.

It's also interesting to note that certainly NOT all of these "Kasuga" prints were produced to be used as calendar prints, as other earlier copies seen have lacked both the rigid "presentation board" (cardboard backing) and front-attached calendar as in this 5th sighting seen just below. Other copies have been simply inside a paper "presentation folder" (without any calendar).

Newly Found "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" Print (1935), bearing attached "Jan-Dec 1936 Calendar"

Concluding Comments

The only closing comment we will make is that our years of collecting experience do occasionally yield some interesting observations and discoveries. In the case of this "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" Hasui print published by Shimbi Shoin Publisher, clearly we are reporting on a very rare print design.

Detail of "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" Print (ca1933-35)

Update of Reported "Sightings"

Thanks to the viewership of our readers, we have the following Shimbi Shoin-published sightings of "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" to report:

(1) Thomas Crossland (author)--"Permanent Personal Collection" copy.

(2) Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. (They have it titled as "Front Gate of Kasuga Shrine at Nara.")

(3) website??--shows "partial image" (when "clicked" shows entire image)--may be taken from SF Art Museum's "Thinker database" copy).

(4) Jan 2004 -- Barbara Greene-Flindall; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (print in original folder)

(5) Jun 2004 -- Peter Belsito's Ebay Auction "HASUI - Japanese Woodblock Print RARE 1936" (SEE ABOVE UPDATE and image)

(6) Aug 2004 -- Saper Galleries, East Lansing, Michigan; (digital image shows removal of image-glued 1936 calendar)

(7) Jan 2006 -- Ukiyoe-Gallery; "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" (#2) copy (Sold)

(8) Dec 2007 -- Ukiyoe-Gallery; "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" (#3) copy (Sold)

(9) Dec 2008 -- Mark Burkeitt; Toranto, Canada (print laid onto cardboard, Japanese Government Railways tag verso, no calendar)

Literature (and print) sources used in preparation of this article include:

Above documented "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" Print courtesty of: Dr. Aaron Packman

"Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975", by Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, ISBN 0-8248-1732-X

"Kawase Hasui -- The Complete Woodblock Prints", by Kendall H. Brown & Shoichiro Watanabe, Hotei (KIT) Publishing, Netherlands, ISBN 90-74822-46-0

Above DATED "calendar print" of "Shinto Shrine of Kasuga at Nara" courtesty of: Peter Belsito

(c) Thomas Crossland and Dr. Andreas Grund, June 2003 - Dec 2008

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