Rakuchu Rakugai Zu (Scenes In and Around Kyoto) (洛中洛外図)

Rakuchu rakugai zu are a genre paintings produced from the Muromachi period to the Edo period that depicted the town area (inner Kyoto) and suburbs (outer Kyoto) from an overhead view. Most of them are paintings on folding screens. It is not only valuable from the viewpoint of art history, but also from the viewpoint of historical material to know the city and architecture of the time, and also valuable as the picture depicts, in a elaborated manner, the life of samurai, court nobles, and common folks.

Rakuchu rakugai zu were produced largely for political purposes, thus the imperial palace and samurai residences are painted and calculated for effect. Many of them were painted by those of the Kano School. The picture compositions are stereo-typed. The products of the 16th century places Shimogyo-ku Ward at the right wing and Kamigyo-ku Ward (northern part of Kyoto) at the left wing, and the products of the 17th century places the eastern part of the town at the right wing and western part at the left wing. Things and events of spring, summer, fall, and winter in Kyoto are depicted, and many of them have floats from the Gion Festival in them.

The Beginning of Rakuchu Rakugai Zu

There is an entry in the diary of Sanetaka SANJONISHI in 1506, "Sadakage ASAKURA of Echizen Province ordered Mitsunobu TOSA to paint the scenery of Kyoto on a folding screen,' and it is thought to be the first historical record of the Rakuchu rakugai zu. The background is that this was painted at the time part of the city was being reconstructed after the Onin War when the Gion-e (Gion Festival) was stopped and the festival was later resumed in 1500.

Early Rakuchu Rakugai Zu

The pictures produced in the 16th century are called early Rakuchu rakugai zu, and characteristically the imperial palace, the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and the Hosokawa family residences were largely painted. Including the copies, the following four are well known.

Rekihaku "A" version (the possession of National Museum of Japanese History): Pair of six-panel folding screens, the Important Cultural Property
As it became a possession of the Prince House of Sanjo to the Machida family after the Meiji period, it is called the Sanjo version or Machida version. It is the oldest among the now existing Rakuchu rakugai zu, and it is the painted scenery of Kyoto during the 1520s, said to be a product of a Kano school painter, attributed to Motonobu KANO.

Tohaku reproduction (possession of the Tokyo National Museum). It is a copy produced in Edo period, and said to be a reproductive art of the original which Eitoku KANO painted. It is said that the scenery depicted was of the 1540s.

Uesugi version (possession of the Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum): Pair of six-panel folding screens, painted by Eitoku KANO, National Treasure

It was held by the Uesugi Family, the lord of the Yonezawa Domain, and it is said to be one of the best masterpieces of Rakuchu rakugai zu, and is designated as a National Treasure. It is said that it was painted by Eitoku KANO, and Nobunaga ODA gave it as a gift to Kenshin UESUGI in 1574 (Uesugi Nenpu (Uesugi's chronological record)). There were many discussions assessing the age it was produced based upon the painted scenery, Akira IMATANI specified the year of the scenery as 1547, and denied that it is not a work of Eitoku ("Kyoto, in 1547"). Imatani's assertion impacted art historians, however, later, Katsuya SETA advanced the year of the scenery and he presumed the one who ordered to paint it was Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA. Further, Hideo KURODA advances the year of the scenery painted as being in or after 1561, and he showed a historical record and specified the completion of the painting was 1565 ("Nazotoki Rakuchu Rakugaizu" (solving the mystery of Scenes In and Around Kyoto)). In the past, it had been thought that this picture was ordered to be painted by Nobunaga to Eitoku, today, the widely accepted assertion is that one who ordered the folding screen is thought to be Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, and the picture was completed in October 1565 after the death of Yoshiteru, and Nobunaga obtained it later and gave it away to Kenshin UESUGI in 1574. Because the age of the scenery in the picture is not necessarily connected directly to the age of completion, and there is a possibility that the picture was painted based on drafts, and the seal 'Kuninobu,' the Shubun Enkaku nai Tsubogata In (pot-shaped seal in a round frame with shunbun style (shunbun means seals carved around the characters, leaving red characters on the paper with white background)), which is put on the picture is of the highest credibility among seals Eitoku held, the art historians now regard it is the genuine Eitoku's.

Rekihaku "B" version (National Museum of Japanese History): Pair of six-panel folding screens, Important Cultural Property
It is also called the Takahashi version. There is an opinion that the work was done by Shoei KANO (father of Eitoku) and completion is thought to be around the same as that of the Uesugi version.

In and After the Edo Period

Rakuchu rakugai zu painted in and after the Edo period, Nijo-jo Castle was mainly painted. Many Rakuchu rakugai zu were painted by the 19th century and there is said to be about 100. Three of them are designated as Important Cultural Properties.

Funaki version (possession of Tokyo National Museum): Pair of six-panel folding screens, Important Cultural Property
On the left wing is Nijo-jo Castle (of the Tokugawa Clan), and, in contrast, on the right is the Great Buddha hall of Hoko-ji Temple (of the Toyotomi clan). The picture was the scenery of Kyoto from 1596 to 1614 and said to be the work of Matabei IWASA. The town area is largely located at the center of the picture, and the mode of life in the city such as Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) play sheds and prostitution houses, and the lives of common folks are lively depicted and this picture is very unique among Rakuchu rakugai zu.

Shoko-ji Temple version: Pair of six-panel folding screens, Important Cultural Property
Handed down at Shoko-ji Temple (Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture). The Nijo-jo Castle and the Great Buddha hall of Hoko-ji Temple are painted contrastively. It depicts Kyoto from 1615 to 1623, and said to be the work of the Kano school.

Ikeda version (the possession of Hayashibara Museum of Art): Pair of six-panel folding screens, Important Cultural Property
The picture was handed down to the Ikeda family of the Okayama clan. It is said that it depicts Kyoto from 1615 to 1623.

One of the characteristics of the Rakuchu rakugai zu painted during the Edo period is that a delegation from Korea is depicted in some of them. About ten works are known today, of which representatives are follows; the Imaimachi version (private property in Nara Prefecture, pair of six-panel folding screens in color painting on gold-foil paper), Shugo family version (private property in Toyama Prefecture, pair of six-panel folding screens in color painting on gold-foil paper), and one possessed by the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston in the United States, which is purportedly old stock of the Kishu Tokugawa family.


It is said that Eitoku KANO painted the 'Azuchi-jo Castle town' on orders of Nobunaga, which was a gift to the Vatican.

There is the 'Edo scenes folding screens' depicting scenes of Edo painted in the early Edo period (a possession of the National Museum of Japanese History).

[Original Japanese]