We recently acquired a rare war-time manga game board or sugoroku (すごろく / 双六) print designed by Otake Kokkan (尾竹国観, 1880-1945). Published in 1905, the theme of this print, war, was often featured in playful games to foster children’s national pride. This historical piece offers a valuable window on to the way Japanese children were encouraged to celebrate their nation’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).
The artist Kokkan was the youngest of the so-called Otake brothers who came from Niigata prefecture. The two elder siblings, Otake Etsudô (尾竹越堂, 1868-1931) and Otake Chikuha (尾竹竹坡, 1878-1936), were also artists known for their Nihonga and kuchi-e designs.
During his career, Kokkan studied Yamato-e, literally meaning “Japanese paintings,” which featured Japanese subject matter including courtly and military scenes, historical events, and battles. Among Kokkan’s designs were thus war scenes like the ones featured in this print.
For further reading on sugoroku, check out the following resources at OSU Libraries:
Chikamatsu, Hanji. Iga-goe Dōchū Sugoroku. Hadesugata Onna Maiginu. Katakiuchi Tsuzure No Nishiki. Sanjūsangendō Munagi No Yurai. Kokaji. Tōkyō: Kokuritsu Gekijō Jigyōbu, 1977.
Chikamatsu, Kasaku, Ganjirō Nakamura, Tōjūrō Sakata, Nizaemon Kataoka, and Hanji Chikamatsu. Iga-goe Dōchū Sugoroku. Tokyo: Shōchiku Kabushiki Kaisha, 2007.
Namiki, Seishi. Edo No Yūgi: Kaiawase, Karuta, Sugoroku. Kyōto: Seigensha, 2007.
Yamamoto, Masakatsu. Sugoroku Asobi. Tōkyō: Unsōdō, 1988.
For further studies on Otake Kokkan, please, see:
Otake, Kokkan. Kamogawa No Yūsuzumi , 1900.
Higuchi, Ranrin, and Odake, Kokkan. Tsuyoi Nippon. Tōkyō : Kōdōkan, Meiji 39 .
Nakamura, Kōya, Tomoto Kobori, Chikuha Otake, and Kokkan Otake. Jinjō Shōgaku Kokushi Ezu: Jinjō 6-Gakunenyō. Tōkyō: Gakushūsha, 1939.
Uehara, Konen, Chikuha Otake, and Kokkan Otake. Meiji Shoki No Hagaki Saizu Mokuhanga. Tokyo: Tsutaya Jūzaburō, 1895.