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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Bando Mitsugoro III Pounding New Year Rice Cakes
Date: commissioned for New Year 1821
Medium: Color woodblock print
Dimensions: 8 7/16 x 7 5/16 inches (21.4 x 18.6 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Joanna Haab Schoff, Class of 1955
Object Number: 2011.017.031
Label Text: The formation of Joanna Haab Schoff’s collection of surimono, privately commissioned poetry prints, had its roots in the 1950s when she and her husband, James Stanley Schoff, then serving in the American military, lived in Japan. After returning to the United States, they collected Toulouse-Lautrec prints and were led by the Japanese influence on late nineteenth-century French art to seek out Japanese woodblock prints. The elegance and technical sophistication of surimono, along with the literary wit conveyed, especially appealed to Joanna. In 2006, the Johnson Museum organized an exhibition of the Schoffs’ collection, with an accompanying catalogue by Daniel McKee, Cornell Library curator of Japanese and Korean collections. In 2011 the Schoffs donated a portion of their collection to the Johnson Museum. ("American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art," curated by Ellen Avril and presented at the Johnson Museum June 25–December 18, 2016)

Wakamochi no
Kine toru furi no
Okashisa ni
Egao wo misuru
Naniwazu no ume

At the comic sight of him
Taking the young rice cake
We show our smiling faces
For this plum of Naniwa Bay
—To ̄ho ̄kenTakamado

Kine torite
Tsuki no usagi mo
Haru nige nokoru
Yuki no wakamochi

Taking the pounder—
Would that he could
Make them like the moon rabbit
Those snowy white rice cakes
That escaped the spring thaw
—Tazuro ̄Takamitsu

The pounding of sticky rice into cakes (mochi) for the New Year was an annual practice, associated with the “rabbit in the moon,” perhaps in part through a pun with the phrase mochizuki for a full moon. Here, white rabbits, rounded like the moon, decorate the actor’s robes, beside pampas grass associated with the moon festival. A “moon boat” motif also decorates the mortar, while the actor’s headband has raised ties like rabbit ears. The second poem plays with these connections, emphasizing the whiteness of the round mochi cakes as “snow,” which has lasted despite the warmth of spring, and comparing the comic actor to the quintessential mochi maker, the moon rabbit. The scene of rice cake–pounding derives from a kabuki play, Somemoyo ̄Naniwa miyage (Dyed Patterns:
A Souvenir of Osaka), performed at the Kado Theater in Osaka in March 1821, with Bando-Mitsugoro-III (1773-1831) playing the comic role.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.