Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) (artist 01/01/1797 – 04/14/1861)

加美鳴 - an actor as the God of Thunder and Lightning (Raijin or Raiden)


9.75 in x 14 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri in red
Publisher: Shimizuya Naojirō (Marks 468 - seal 01-081)
Censors: Mera and Murata
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - an 1815 Toyokuni I print of the thunder god
Royal Museums of Art and History, Belgium (via Cultural Japan)

This print is categorized by some as a giga (戯画) or comical print.


The god of thunder and lightning: Merrily Baird notes that "Japanese art depicts Raijin, who is also known as Raiden and Kaminari-Sama, in demonic form.... [W]hen he is without his thunderbolts, his primary attribute is a barrel drum or circlet of barrel drums decorated with the three-comma (mitsu tomoe) motif."

Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design p. 40.

"The rolling thunder is made by Kaminari-san [かみなりさん] or Raijin. He lives up on the summer clouds, and is always naked, wearing only a loincloth made of tiger skin. He has horns on his head and tusks in his wide mouth. On his back, he carries about a dozen round, flat drums, arranged in a circle, and holds drumsticks in his hands. When he beats his drums, the thunder rolls through the sky and puts fear into the people on earth.

He comes down to this earth whenever he wishes to eat o-heso [お臍 or おへそ] or human navels. He is very fond of them, and this fondness causes him to fall from the sky. Whenever children run around naked in summer, mothers say, 'Put on your clothes or Kaminari-san will come and take your o-heso. Then little boys will hurry to cover themselves up. Many old people still put their hands on their stomachs whenever they hear the distant rolling of thunder."

Quoted from: Mock Joya's Things Japanese, The Japan Times, Ltd., 1985, p. 345.
Shimizuya Naojirō (清水屋直次郎) (publisher)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
comic prints (giga - 戯画 / kyōga - 狂画) (genre)