HIROSHIMA – A pair of screens depicting a town by the Seto Inland Sea and a visiting Korean delegation in the early 19th century were unveiled to reporters Wednesday.
The screens showing the scenic Tomonoura area of Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, were shown at the former Taichoro reception hall, which once accommodated senior members of Korean delegations.
“It is a valuable piece of art conveying the atmosphere of the area at the time,” an official from the city’s cultural affairs section said of the screens, which were found in a home in Fukuyama.
Historically, Tomonoura prospered as a port where ships awaited optimal tides.
The screens, each measuring 1.7 meters by 3.7 meters, are painted in black ink with additional colors. Their creator is unknown, but they are believed to have been made during the Bunka Period (1804-1818), judging by the town’s scenery.
The right screen vividly depicts an overall view of Tomonoura, including Taichoro, with ships in the bay and rows of storehouses.
The left screen depicts delegation members writing something or cheerfully talking with their Japanese hosts.
Woodblock prints of poems by the Korean envoys are plastered in the margins. The woodblocks are still kept at Taichoro, which is also where famous revolutionary Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-1867) held talks over a collision incident involving his Iroha Maru, widely viewed as Japan’s first Western-style sailboat.
The city’s curator, Koji Danjo, estimates that the screens were made around 1811, when the last of the total of 12 Korean missions visited — the only occasion in which the envoys did not travel beyond Tsushima Island located between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
“It is possible that the screens were made by those who regretted the envoys not visiting Tomonoura and to honor the tradition of the Korean missions,” Danjo said.
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