Battle at Hakodate Harbor

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Eight Views of Warriors in the Provinces: Battle at Hakodate Harbor
(Shokoku musha hakkei: Hakodate minato)

signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi ga, with publisher's seal Man, hanmoto, Nihonbashi, Manson, Tori Ichi (Yorozuya Magobei of Kineido), and combined censor and date seal Hitsuji-ichi, aratame (year of the goat [1871], 1st lunar month, examined)

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 9 7/8 in., 37.1 by 25 cm

The series Eight Views of Warriors in the Provinces (Shokoku musha hakkei) depicts battles from the recently concluded Boshin War of 1868–1869, fought in the early days following the Meiji Restoration (1868). As the new regime began to aggressively consolidate power, forces loyal to the deposed shogun and invested in Japan’s traditional balance of political power waged an ultimately short-lived war to restore something akin to the old order. Yoshitoshi would dedicate many compositions to the conflicts surrounding the Meiji Restoration, including both the Boshin War as well as the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion.

At the 1869 Battle of Hakodate over 16,000 Imperial troops marched on Hakodate harbor, the last stronghold of the fledgling Ezo Republic. What followed was one of the first modern naval battles in Japanese history as steam-powered warships engaged one another in Hakodate Bay. With the assistance of land-based artillery support, the Imperial forces won a resounding victory, sinking two ships and capturing the remaining three Ezo warships and forcing the capitulation of the Republic. In the foreground, the Imperial forces standing on the shore are knee-deep in sand, facing a sinking ship engulfed in flames just offshore. The black smoke from the ship and the grey smoke from the cannon blasts mingle in the evening sky.

Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 38

Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 393, no. 271.3
Marius B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, 2002, pp. 278, 342 (re: battle)
Robert Schaap, Appendix II in Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, 2011, p. 161, no. 41 (illus.)
Yuriko Iwakiri, Yoshitoshi, 2014, p. 54, no. 68



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site last updated
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