Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dieting on the Busy Book



I have a strange relationship with Japanese art/bookart, as I do with the National Diet Library. On the one hand much of it has a certain familiarity about it, even dare I suggest, repetetiveness. And there is certainly a lot of it in existence (the Diet Library has 60,000 volumes online, excluding childrens' books and western books). But sometimes there is a reward if I give it time.


It is always somewhat puzzling approaching each artistic piece, without any background frame of reference or deep cultural understanding, with that ubiquitous and obscure kanji script and its hidden meanings pointing to exotic revelations if I just give it due consideration. It's a similar feeling wandering aimlessly around the esoteric Diet Library's web cloisters. I must remind myself that there is always the possibility of fulfillment if I pause long enough and look a bit more deeply.


Perhaps the lack of english is a good thing. The internet fosters a surfacey relationship. In and out in 30 seconds flat with a link or a vision from the pillage and off elsewhere for more. But with little other than the recognition of hyperlinks as a kind of architectural comfort, I feel compelled to linger when something turns up at the Diet Library. If I leave quickly I won't be able to find my way back and it may just be more deadends and catalogue redundancy ahead.


So it was in finding the Busy Book. If I recall correctly it belongs to the Edo period which lasted from 1600 to 1867. That's as much as I can tell you about the images here although I'm presuming it's a sketchbook and that they're handpainted and there's probably a few woodblocks amongst the 32 pages in the set. But if I hadn't looked closely I would have missed chickenman and the lamp ninja and somehow they made it all worthwhile.


The Busy Book at the Japanese National Diet Library has pages of birds and warriors and furniture and animals and all manner of visual marvels.

Addit: Hm - that page now gives an error message, as it does (and all associated pages do) when I try to find it again using the browser history. I'm not sure if that means one must come at it via their portal or if the server is down at present. There is no way on earth I could remember how to navigate to it - I copy and paste Japanese ideograms into the search engine in a logical but ignorant fashion that is as unrepeatable as it is imponderable. Sorry about that.

Addit 2: Thanks to piranha's comment --- go to this page and copy in this: おもちゃ絵 -- click through a couple of pages (it's obvious) and you will see '32'. Click the tiny boxes next to it and voila! (I couldn't quite find the permalink) "Toy Picture" = "Busy Book" no doubt.

3 comments :

tristan said...

i've become a dedicated regular visitor in the last few weeks and am writing in this old-fashioned way "to express my gratitude"

keep up the brilliant work

piranha said...

heya -- i love, love, love your your blog. and i have a similar relationship with the diet library; my fledgling japanese leaves me often scratching my head, but luckily i have good search-fu. :)

the error message is a session timeout message, which forces one back to the main portal.

to get the permanent address for an image, in the lower right corner there is an URL-kanji button (for printing, i think); if you press that you'll get a hideously long address that will work even after your session expires.

おもちゃ絵 will find this particular book again (babelfish translates it as "toy picture").

pk said...

Thanks for that tristan and piranha.
I sometimes wonder if there are people out there ;- )

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