Santō Kyōden

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Depiction of Santō Kyōden
Cover of the Komon gawa (小紋訝話; "Elegant chats on fabric design"), 1790

Santō Kyōden (山東 京伝, 13 September 1761 Edo – 27 October 1816) was a Japanese poet, writer and artist in the Edo period. His real name was Iwase Samuru (岩瀬 醒), and he was also known popularly as Kyōya Denzō (京屋伝蔵, kyōya denzō). He was the brother of novelist Iwase Momoki (岩瀬 百樹), who was known as Santō Kyōzan [ja].


Santō Kyōden was born in Fukagawa in Edo (modern Tokyo). The Iwase family into which he was born were pawnbrokers in a lumberyard. He studied ukiyo-e under master Kitao Shigemasa (北尾 重政), and began illustrating kibyōshi under the pseudonym of Kitao Masanobu (北尾 政寅). He soon started writing novels under the name of Santō Kyōden; several novels are labeled as written by Santō Kyōden and illustrated by Kitao Masanobu. He wrote kibyōshi and sharebon in great numbers, and became a popular writer. During this time he married twice, both his wives being licensed workers of Yoshiwara, the red-light district of Edo.

During the Kansei Reforms, "[...] military and civil arts were encouraged, and the decadent writings of gesaku authors were condemned." In 1791, Kyōden published three sharebon: Shikake Bunko (仕懸文庫), Nishiki no Ura (錦之裏), and Shōgi Kinuburui (娼妓絹籭). This incurred the anger of the stricter government and he was chained in manacles to his house for fifty days as punishment.[1][2]

Kyōden then broke off all ties with sharebon and turned to writing yomihon. Kyokutei Bakin joined with Kyōden to write gesaku jointly, and independently Kyōden also wrote essentially historical texts on the manners and customs of the Edo period. Kyōden was an acute observer of life in the Edo period. While at ease with exaggeration, comedy and linguistic fun, his writing was primarily realistic.

Fiction writers prior to Kyōden generally wrote fiction as a hobby without any expectations of payment. Kyōden was one of the pioneers in turning this hobby into a livable profession.

His visual artwork is held in several museums, including the Harvard Art Museums,[3] the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco,[4] the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,[5] the University of Michigan Museum of Art,[6] the Portland Art Museum,[7] the British Museum,[8] the Brooklyn Museum,[9] the Yale University Art Gallery,[10] the Art Institute of Chicago,[11] the Minneapolis Institute of Art,[12] the Honolulu Museum of Art,[13] the Metropolitan Museum of Art,[14] the Chazen Museum of Art,[15] the Philadelphia Museum of Art,[16] the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,[17] and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.[18]

Major works[edit]



  • Musukobeya (令子洞房) (1785)
  • The Palace (通言総籬, Tsūgen Sōmagaki) (1787)
  • Kokei no Sanshō (古契三娼) (1787)
  • The Forty-Eight Grips in Buying a Whore (傾城買四十八手, Keiseikai Shijūhatte) (1790)
  • Shigeshige Chiwa (繁千話) (1790)
  • Shikake Bunko (仕懸文庫) (1791)
  • Nishiki no Ura (錦之裏) (1791)
  • The Courtesan's Silken Sieve (娼妓絹籭, Shōgi Kinuburui) (1791)


  • Chūshin Suikoden (忠臣水滸伝) (1799)
  • Udonge Monogatari (優曇華物語) (1804)
  • Sakura Hime Zenden Akebono no Zōshi (桜姫全伝曙草子) (1805)
  • Mukashigatari Inazuma Byōshi (昔話稲妻表紙) (1806, translated by Carmen Blacker as "The Straw Sandal Or The Scroll of the Hundred Crabs", Global Oriental, 2008, ISBN 1-905246-64-1)

Historical works[edit]

  • Kinsei Kiseki-kō (近世奇跡考) (1804)
  • Curios (骨董集, kottō-shū) (1813)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Keene 1976, p. 408
  2. ^ Kubota 2007, p. 167
  3. ^ Harvard. "From the Harvard Art Museums' collections The courtesans Segawa and Matsundo of the Matsuba House from the printed album "A Competition Among the New Beauties of the Yoshiwara Mirrored in Their Writing" (Yoshiwara keisei shin bijin awase jihitsu kagami)". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  4. ^ "Kitao Masanobu". FAMSF Search the Collections. 2018-09-21. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  5. ^ "Flowers of Yamashita (Yamashita no hana), from the series Comparing the Charms of Modern Beauties (Tôsei bijin irokurabe)". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  6. ^ "Exchange: Red-Robed Courtesan (parody of Bodhidharma)". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  7. ^ "Kitao Masanobu (Santō Kyōden)". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  8. ^ "book-label | British Museum". The British Museum. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  9. ^ "Brooklyn Museum". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  10. ^ "Returning Sail of the Hanging Scroll: Eight Parlor Views | Yale University Art Gallery". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  11. ^ "Kitao Masanobu". The Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  12. ^ "Geisha On Her Way to a Night-time Assignation, Kitao Masanobu". Minneapolis Institute of Art. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  13. ^ "A Compendium of the New Beauties of the Yoshiwara, Mirrored in their Writing (Yoshiwara Keisei Shin Bijin Awase Jihitsu Kagami) | Honolulu Museum of Art". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  14. ^ "Kitao Masanobu (Santō Kyōden) | Santoan's Chats: Short Records Written upon His Waking | Japan | Edo period (1615–1868)". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  15. ^ "The courtesans Segawa and Matsundo (or Matsubito) of the Matsuba Establishment, from the series A Mirror with Examples of Calligraphy by Beautiful New Courtesans in the Yoshiwara | 13420". Chazen Museum of Art. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  16. ^ "Philadelphia Museum of Art - Collections Object : Courtesan, Geisha and Attendant, from the series Pictures of Ten Types of the Latest Beauty (Tōsei enpū jukkei zu)". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  17. ^ "Wisteria Maiden Dancing for a Demon with a Samisen | LACMA Collections". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  18. ^ "Untitled. Nasu no Yoichi Shoots the Fan". Indianapolis Museum of Art Online Collection. Retrieved 2021-01-08.


External links[edit]