<i>Looking Tiresome: The Appearance of a Virgin of the Kansei Era</i> (<i>Urusasō</i> - うるささう: <i>Kansei nenkan shojo no fūzoku</i> - 寛政年間処女之風俗) from the series <i>Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners</i> (<i>Fūzoku sanjūnisō</i> - 風俗三十二相)

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年) (artist 04/30/1839 – 06/09/1892)

Looking Tiresome: The Appearance of a Virgin of the Kansei Era (Urusasō - うるささう: Kansei nenkan shojo no fūzoku - 寛政年間処女之風俗) from the series Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners (Fūzoku sanjūnisō - 風俗三十二相)


10 in x 14.5 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Signed: Yoshitoshi (芳年)
Hagi Uragami Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Waseda University
Edo-Tokyo Museum
National Diet Library
National Library of Australia
Chiba City Museum of Art
Centre Céramique de Maastricht
Ritsumeikan University
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Lyon Collection - another print from this series: Looking Hot
Lyon Collection - another print from this series: Looking Feminine
Lyon Collection - another print from this series: Looking Capable "This young lady is teasing a pet cat, who looks up at her intently. Besides 'annoying' or 'tiresome,' urusa can also mean 'noisy:' either the cat is purring at the attention it is receiving or complaining audibly at being teased.

The girl is expensively dressed and her coiffure with its foil-flower ornament is immaculate. She obviously comes from a rich family. Maybe she is pestering her cat because she is bored. Yoshitoshi has chosen the word for virgin in the title, shojo, rather than musume, 'maiden'... with the implication that there is an element of frustration in her teasing.

The design of the girl's robe is called uroko. 'fish-scale,' a popular pattern. Yoshitoshi used it to suggest snake-scales in two designs of a lovesick maiden transformed into a serpent by her frustration. Mandarin ducks, symbols of marital constancy, swim on waves among the complex fish-scale pattern. The underrobe has a tie-dye design called asanoha, 'cotton flower,' a pattern appropriate for wear by all generations, men and women, which appears extensively in this series. The cat's collar with tis bell is made of the same fabric."

Quoted from: Yoshitoshi's Women: The Woodblock Print Series "Fuzoku Sanjiso" by John Stevenson, p. 30. This is accompanied by a full-page color illustration on page 31.


About the series Fūzoku sanjūnisō - 風俗三十二相

"Yoshitoshi designed this set of thirty-two prints over a relatively short period in 1888. It owes a great debt to one of the most celebrated print designers in the genre of bijin-ga (prints of beautiful women), Kitagawa Utamaro (1753?-1806). Fifteen of the thirty-two women portrayed in Yoshitoshi's set are prostitutes of various ranks, perhaps reflecting a renewed interest in popular Edo culture known euphemistically as the 'floating world' (ukiyo). At the centre of this culture was the licensed pleasure quarter of the Yoshiwara. While this district had lost much of its charm by the late 19th century - eclipsed by new areas like the Shinbashi and the Yanagibashi - the Yoshiwara still had 3,000 registered prostitutes plying their trade in 1888.

Each of the women illustrated in the set expresses a specific emotion or state of mind and is not intended as an individualistic portrait. One is 'looking pained' or 'looking refined', another is 'looking eager to meet someone' and so forth. Yoshitoshi is exploiting the double meaning of the last character in the series title. Carrying the meaning of 'aspect; or 'physiognomy', this character conveys the sense of 'looking' or 'appearing' when combined with the print title. Similar to the two other major series from the last years of his life, New forms of thirty-six ghosts (Shingata sanjūrokkaisen...) and One hundred aspects of the moon (Tsuki hyakushi...), Yoshitoshi and his publisher appear to be marketing images that are meant to create a nostalgic view of Edo-period culture at a time when the Japanese were romanticising their past in search of cultural identity. Only the final print in the set deals with a contemporary view of Japanese women...

The publisher Tsujiokaya Kamekichi (here under the name Tsunajima Kamekichi) released the first print on 12 February 1888 and the last sheet on 3 November. Four images are dated simply 'November 1888'. The contents page was printed on 10 October and published in November upon the completion of the set. Twenty-two of the twenty-eight sheets with precise day and year dates were produced between February and May, with a further work in June. None were issued during the hot summer months of July and August, a time when publishers do not seem to have released prints. Five followed in September, October and November. Four pieces are dated 1888, but lack a month specification. The release dates, when the prints actually become available for sale, are also listed on the prints. These are generally a few days later, although in one case and for reasons unknown, publication was delayed for more than thirty-five days.

Various editions of the Thirty-two aspects of customs and manners are known. The first edition is recognizable by a three-colour print title cartouche. However, the cartouche coloration alone does not determine whether an image is an early edition. Cartouches with three colours also appear sometimes with the application of different pigments, on poorly prints examples. A second edition is differentiated from the first in the use of only two colours in the title cartouche and the third with a monochromatic, almost grey, title cartouche. The dates on the prints of these three variant editions have not been altered. A posthumous edition was also printed in 1912, twenty years after Yoshitoshi's death, from re-cut blocks. The cartouche containing the publishing information was removed in this reprint."

Quoted from: Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, p. 140 - accompanied by a full-color, quarter-page illustration.


There are four prints from this series in the Lyon Collection.


Another copy of this print was featured in the Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection at the Japan Society from March 13 to June 7, 2015.



1) in color in The World of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Tsukioka Yoshitoshi no Sekai - 月岡芳年の世界) by Susugu Yoshida, p. 66, #42.

2) in color in Japanese Prints: Images of the Floating World, Barry Davies Oriental Art, #176A, illustrated on p. 183.

3) in black and white in Traditional Woodblock Prints of Japan by Seiichiro Takahashi, 1973 edition, p. 146.

4) in black and white in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections: Museo d'Arte Orientale, Genoa II, vol. 11, Kodansha, 1989, supervised by Muneshige Narazaki, p. 204, #139.
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)
Tsujiokaya Kamekichi (辻岡屋亀吉) (publisher)
Meiji era (明治時代: 1868-1912) (genre)