Series: Sino – Japanese War (Part 1)
First Sino-Japanese War: 1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895
Title (Original): 日本萬歳 百撰百笑
Title: Nihon Banzai, Hyakusen Hyashushô
Translated title: “Long Live Japan: One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs”
No: 19. A Thick-Skinned Face. (Degener Japanese Fine Prints. 2.1895)
Artist (Original): 小林清親 (1847-1915)
Artist: Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)
Medium: Japanese woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and colour on paper
Publisher (Original): 松木平吉
Publisher: Matsuki Heikichi
Publication Date: February 1895
The series title Hyakusen hyakusho, literally "One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs", is a pun on the expression "One Hundred Battles, One Hundred Victories" (both pronounced Hyakusen hyakusho).1 The series was issued in three parts and presented parodies of the enemy, here of the Chinese in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and ten years later the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The first part of the series titled Long Live Japan: One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs, consisting of fifty oban-sized prints issued between September 1894 and August 1895, and published by Matsuki Heikichi. The second part of the series titled Magic Lantern Society: One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs, consists of twelve prints, was issued between November 1895 and December 1895. Both of these parts parodied (often in a racist manner) the Chinese people, leadership and war effort. The third and last part of the series, consists of eight-six prints, and used the same title as the first part Long Live Japan: One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs and was issued between April 1904 and April 1905. The prints parodied the Russian war effort.
Each print in the series is illustrated with a humorous scene related to the war (the first 2 parts related to the Sino-Japanese War and the third part to the Russo-Japanese War) by the artist Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) and contains accompanying comments, riddled with wordplay and irony, by the writer/journalist Nishimori Takeki (1861-1913), using the pseudonym Koppi Dojin ("Master Skin and Bones"). The series title Hyakusen hyakusho appears in the cartouche in the upper right of the print.
The print's title and the pseudonym Koppi Dojin appear in the right most column within each text box at the top of the print. The woodblock prints in this series are pure propaganda, and it cannot be denied that from today's point of view some depictions are quite racist.
Kiyochika produced this manga series of political cartoons during the Sino-Japanese war in 1894-1895, when Japan fought with China for control over Korea and won. The title of the series is a pun on the phrase, “One Hundred Battles, One Hundred Victories.”
This unique series is one of Kiyochika’s most unusual works. Drawn in a distinctly comic style, each print is a wildly imaginative illustration filled with unrestrained fantasy and exaggeration. Kiyochika’s satiric depictions poked fun at the Chinese and flaunted the new modernization of Meiji era Japan as superior to the old ways of China. Ironically, these images often paralleled the “anti-Oriental” cartoons that Westerners were producing at the same time.
The War in Comic Relief
During the war with China, as throughout most of his career, Kiyochika revealed two faces, one lyrical and one comic. The lyric impulse during this period was reserved for the triptych format, while the comic spirit found expression in a series of single-sheet colour woodblocks entitled “One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs” (Hyakusen hyakushō). The publisher was Matsuki Heikichi, who was also responsible for the majority of Kiyochika’s war triptychs.
The series appeared in two parts with different prefixes to the main title. First came “Long Live Japan: One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs,” a total of fifty sheets that appeared from as early as October 1894 and on into the late spring of 1895. At this point, a table of contents was issued listing the first fifty prints and announcing a change in the series to “Magic Lantern of Society: One Hundred Victories, One Hundred Laughs,” thus marking the end of the war. The series continued on into early 1896, although it is doubtful that the second set of fifty was ever completed.
The upper one-third of each print in the series contained the series title and a box of comic text by Koppi Dōjin, with Kiyochika’s illustration below. Koppi Dōjin
“Master skin and Bones,” was the pen name of Nishimori Takeki (1861-1913), one of the chief comic writers for Marumaru chinbun, in the pages of which he had often collaborated with Kiyochika, was thirteen years senior. Little is known of Nishimori except that, judging from his pen name, he was probably a skinny man.
The example here offers a stark contrast on the part of both writer and artist between contempt for the Chinese enemy and touching sympathy for the Japanese who made sacrifices for the war. The text, as throughout the series, concludes with a punning punchline: since these are almost impossible to translate.
A Thick-Skinned Face, plays on the figure of speech that in both Chinese and Japanese means an impudent person: by expression, “to peel off the skin of the face” is to put such a person to shame.
The text reads:
Some faces have thick skins, some don’t. But in all the world there’s no more impudent, iron-skin-faced rascal than this. He knows neither shame nor dignity, this must be what they mean by a “thousand-layered face.” So it’s no easy matter to put him to shame by pulling the skin off his face. Maybe it’s like the old comic poem put it. “Each time the skin’s peeled, it gets thicker still.” All right then. I’ll change the technique a bit, and try to shave it off from the side with a plane. Gari gari, scrape scrape. This rascal has the bad habit of looking down at others, so let’s start by shaving off the eyeballs. Next I’ll shave off that haughty nose. After that? Well, he likes to talk big, so let’s pare off the mouth as well. After some good gari gari, scrape scrape, even a callous rascal like this seems to be feeling it:
“Owww, it hurts, please, that’s enough, forgive me…”
“Nope, can’t forgive you yet.”
“Then, please just leave a single eye unshaved.”
“What do you plan to do with it?”
“It’s just to prove that you one and eye lost!”
East Asian Museum (Sweden)
The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints
Museum of Fine Arts
The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre of Waseda University Museum
The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints web-site
Henry D. Smith II, KIYOCHIKA – Artist of Meiji Japan. Santa Barbara Museum of Art. 1988: pp.112-13.