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New exhibit spotlights painter Umehara Ryūzaburō

This post is part of a new series featuring prominent Japanese artists of the mid-20th century. Our third installment features Japanese painter Umehara Ryūzaburō (1888-1986) who along with Yasui Sōtarō (1888-1955) was considered one of the twin luminaries of yōga style painting. A new exhibition of Prange materials titled “FUJI Mountain as Metaphor in Postwar Japan” casts a spotlight on Umehara, along with Nihonga painter Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958). The display cases are on view until March 3, 2023 in the Maryland Room, on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library North at the University of Maryland College Park. Open 10am to 4pm Mondays thru Fridays. 

Atelier_Umehara pastel

When the Meiji period began and Japan ended their strict national isolationist policy, artists quickly took interest in European painting techniques and media, including oil painting. The first Japanese oil painters studied traditional academic European painting rather than exploring the newly emerging post-Impressionist and abstract styles.

In the early twentieth century, a new generation of Japanese artists pioneered an avant-garde style, producing oil paintings as formally innovative as those made by their European contemporaries. Many of these artists pursued training abroad before returning to Japan; one of these men, Umehara Ryūzaburō (1888-1986) spent 1908-1911 in Europe to study the effects of color harmonies and contrast, and notably studied under the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Umehara imbued his landscapes, portraits and still lifes with drama, abandoning realism in favor of expression through his use of thick, bold brushstrokes and an exaggeratedly saturated palette. While his highly subjective scenes recall European post-Impressionism and Fauvism, Umehara also incorporated traditional Japanese painting materials, such as mineral pigments, into his oil paintings. 

During the war, the Japanese government employed Umehara as an Imperial painter. He traveled to the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo in northern China each summer between 1939 and 1943 to record the landscape, culture, and people within the Japanese colonies. However, worsening conditions for the Japanese prevented Umehara from returning to China after 1943, severing him from the subject matter that had inspired his painting for years. 

Japan’s impending surrender marked a turning point in Umehara’s career. In the tumultuous early summer of 1945, Umehara stayed in an inn from which he could clearly observe Mt. Fuji from his window and began depicting the mountain. After producing so many images of Japanese colonies, Umehara ultimately turned to Mt. Fuji, an emblem of Japan. In one of his earliest Fuji images, a 1945 pastel drawing titled Mt. Fuji, reprinted by Atelier art magazine one year later, Mt. Fuji rises out of an abundance of summer foliage and rolling hills into the clear sky. Though naturalistically colored, Umehara’s visible, loosely blended strokes and slightly lopsided shape of the mountain invoke exhaustion and frustration, perhaps due to the demoralizing conditions of the war’s end. 

Though the Japanese previously associated Mt. Fuji with Imperial Japan’s militaristic pursuits, after August 1945, familiar images and phrases that once connotated nationalism quickly evolved past this.  Japanese society rapidly changed after surrender, and the symbolism of Mt. Fuji followed suit. To many Japanese like Umehara, the mountain’s image offered hope and resilience during the uncertainty of the U.S. -led Occupation. In the mayhem of the war’s end and Occupation’s beginning, Umehara produced dozens of images of Fuji in pastels, ink and oil paint. In dedicatedly exploring this subject, an embodiment of the eternal homeland, Umehara created an abundance of Fujis that differ vastly in appearance. 

Umehara_Ohito 1946

Umehara’s 1947 oil painting Fuji Painting (Ohito), presents a view of the mountain from the same viewpoint as his 1945 Mt. Fuji pastel drawing. However, in the later image, Umehara abandoned the naturalistic palette for his characteristic expressive style.  In Picture of Fuji  (Ohito), Umehara greatly exaggerated the color palette and used these bold, flat colors and large brush strokes to abstract the forms of Fuji and surrounding land. The simplified red, blue, and green forms loosely depict a mountain rising from the land behind a river.

In each scene, the surrounding landscape changes completely with Umehara’s exploration of different palettes of contrasting colors, but Mt. Fuji remains constant. Despite the uncertainty of the Occupation, the permanency of Fuji offers hope.

Magdalena Frances Mastrandrea is an MA student in Art History studying modern Japanese art, specifically 20th century paintings. She has been working as a student assistant in the Prange Collection since the Fall semester of 2022 and co-curated the exhibition “FUJI: Mountain as Metaphor in Postwar Japan.”

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New exhibit coming soon: “FUJI: Mountain as Metaphor in Postwar Japan”


One of Japan’s New Year traditions is the ‘hatsuyume’ (初夢), or the first dream of the year. If one of the following things appear in your dream, then it is a ‘kichimu’ 吉夢, an auspicious dream, which will supposedly bring good luck for the year. Those harbingers are: one, Mt. Fuji 富士; two, an eagle 鷹 and three, eggplants 茄子.  There are several theories about the origins of this saying. One holds that these three represent the “high” things, the joke being that the third is the price of eggplants in January. Or it is a play on words: eagles swoop down to grab things (acquisition) while ‘nasu’ (茄子 eggplant) is a homonym for 成す(achievement). Whatever the case, the best thing you can dream about on the first day of the year is Mt. Fuji. At the Prange Collection, the theme of our first exhibition of the year is … Mt Fuji! 

The exhibition “FUJI Mountain as Metaphor in Postwar Japan” (January 23, 2023 – March 3, 2023) will be on display in the Maryland Room, on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library North at the University of Maryland College Park. Open 10am to 4pm Mondays thru Fridays. 

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Closed for the Holidays (2022)

SocialMedia_pcb-518-154_-005-tx004The Prange Collection will be closed from Saturday, December 24 through Sunday, January 1, 2023, for the winter holidays.

Happy Holidays!

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Dorayaki for the Holidays!

Dorayaki is a very popular treat in Japan and is something you can buy anywhere and anytime rather than something you make at home. But the situation is different in foreign lands. It’s rare to find good dorayaki in the United States, where I live right now. I found it was a perfect choice for a holiday treat and decided to make it myself as part of a cooking campaign at SCUA (Special Collections and University Archives) !

The recipe was adapted from a cooking book titled “Okashi no Tsukurikata” by Tsutsui Masayuki in the Prange Collection, published during Japan’s Occupation period  (1945-1952). The book also contains recipes for Western sweets and has a “modern” look.

Many cooking books in the Prange Collection follow traditional Japanese units when indicating ingredients by weight, but here they are given in Western units, such as “grams” (but written in kanji).

The first step is the preparation of the an (餡), or red bean paste. 

Simmer the beans until soft.


Old recipes often lack detailed instructions, for example when to add the sugar. So I resorted to more recent recipes for tips, such as adding the sugar after the beans have become soft in order to obtain a nice texture. While the beans continued to simmer, I moved on to the next step.

The second step is grilling the pancakes. 

Most Occupation era recipes have certain ingredients in common for the batter: flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, and water. Some recipes include soy sauce to give color, and others use sesame oil for the grilling (this was not unusual back then), or going back further, they may contain miso paste. But all of these combinations would bring a different flavor.


Even after several minutes, they wouldn’t brown the way I wanted them to …


I decided to add mirin (fortified rice wine for cooking) to the batter after I realized modern recipes often include mirin or honey to give a nice golden color.

The last step is filling the pancakes with the red bean paste, and it’s finished! (The nice, golden pancake on the right has added mirin.)


Let’s compare them with the picture accompanying the original recipe.

dorayaki_recipe pic

It’s not easy to see details in the grainy black and white photo, but it seems that the original recipe has some Western flair; it could be described as a pancake sandwich with smooth bean paste inside. On the other hand, my dorayaki represents the notion of what modern dorayaki should look like.

Despite my best intentions to be faithful to the original recipe, I reduced the amount of sugar, made the bean paste more chunky (つぶ餡; tsubu’an), instead of smooth (こし餡; koshi’an), and became particular about achieving well-browned pancakes. That resulted in dorayaki that gives a somewhat different impression from the finished image of the original! 

It is widely believed that the name “dorayaki” comes from its flat, round shape like a gong (“dora” in Japanese). But also, it is said that a metal gong was used for grilling. The pancakes were much thinner, more like crepes, and the filling was wrapped in a single layer in the Edo era (1603-1867). After the Meiji era (1968-1912), the wrapping cake became sweeter and fluffier like pancakes, under the influence of Western culture. A diversity of ingredients and shapes can be found in the recipes from the Prange Collection, which  suggests dorayaki was in a developing stage during the postwar era, as Japanese sweets became fused with Western ones.

My attempts in dorayaki-making were neither a failure nor a success, and the whole process was very enjoyable. Preparing the red bean paste requires time, but making it from scratch can be a lot of fun, and the result can be much tastier than the premade kind. Indeed, it gave me a (sweet) peace of mind to know I can make dorayaki myself if I get a craving in the future!

Akane Yoshiie is a Visiting Scholar in the Prange Collection, and a representative of the National Diet Library, Japan

*The recipe book mentioned is currently on display in the Maryland Reading Room, as part of the exhibition “Joy of Cooking in the Special Collections” running until early January.

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Featured Publication: Sararīman no bunkashi, aruiwa kazoku to antei no kingendaishi

Salaryman no bunkashiSuzuki, Takane/ 鈴木貴宇.  Sararīman no bunkashi : aruiwa kazoku to antei no kingendaishi<サラリーマン>の文化史 : あるいは「家族」と「安定」の近現代史, 2022.

How have salaried workers been depicted through the course of history in works of literature, comics, photographs, movies,  and the cultural activities of labor unions? This book carefully analyzes archives and documents to offer a cultural interpretation of the reality of everyday citizens who as a group came to represent an entire nation of the middle class, who sought “stability and an ordinary life” in modern and contemporary Japan. 





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Call for Applications: 20th Century Japan Research Awards, 2023

The Nathan and Jeanette Miller Center for Historical Studies and the University of Maryland Libraries invite applications for two $1,500 grants to support research in the library’s Gordon W. Prange Collection and East Asia Collection on topics related to the period of the Allied Occupation of Japan and its aftermath, 1945-1960.  Holders of the Ph.D. or an equivalent degree are eligible to apply, as are graduate students who have completed all requirements for the doctorate except the dissertation. The competition is open to scholars in all parts of the world and from any discipline, but historical topics are preferred.  University of Maryland faculty, staff, and students may not apply.

The application deadline is Tuesday, January 31, 2023. The grant must be used by Friday, December 15, 2023. 

Please see this page for more information.  

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Thanksgiving holidays (2022)


“生きものの冬じたく (幼年ブック=YONEN BUKKU, 1947-10-01)

The Prange Collection will be closed from Wednesday, November 23 through Sunday, November 27 for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Happy National Homemade Bread Day!

In honor of National Homemade Bread Day, today we will look at Prange materials related to “pan” (from the Portuguese word pão), as bread is called in Japan. 

Above to the left is a 1948 book titled “Pan no jōzu na tsukurikata to tabekata” (How to make good bread and eat it well).  The author, Akutsu Shōzō, served as an officer in the Japanese Army during the Pacific War reaching the rank of Army Chief of Staff. After Japan’s surrender in 1945 he used his knowledge of breadmaking which he had acquired in the military, to enter the bread industry. 

Included in the book is a diagram of basic bread shapes drawing from German, British and American baking, and various types of ovens for home use. Of particular note is a simple electric bread maker, whereby heat is generated by electric currents directly applied to the dough.  The bread maker had a brief surge of popularity in the postwar years and the book includes a recipe for what is referred to as “electric bread.” 

Another iconic home appliance of the period is the pop up toaster, pictured on the front page of the trade paper Pan Yogashi Shimbun (May 15, 1949). In this inaugural issue, bread historian Shibata Beisaku notes that for Japan to rise up as an advanced nation, it must make more progress in its bread culture which had much to be desired.

Indeed, during the lean postwar years of the Occupation low-quality commercial bread baked with imported wheat had become a cheap dietary substitute. Faced with severe shortages of rice and other staples there were ever increasing calls to consume more funshoku (粉食; ground flour based foods) rather than ryūshoku (粒食; whole grain based foods). Above left is a cover of the food magazine Shoku to Seikatsu (August/ September issue 1946) which includes an essay by Nagai Isaburō, a historian of grains, titled “Can we eat rice? The future of rice-eating and the Japanese people”. The answer, he argues, is that Japan must rely on both rice and wheat as staples. If people are attached to the daily bowl of refined white rice it is because Japanese rice has gone through centuries of selective cultivation and is delicious. Bread too, he writes, can be flavorful and satisfying if made well.

Yet for the majority of Japanese people, breadmaking had a ways to go. Above right is the inaugural issue of Shoku to Seikatsu (May 1946) which includes an article titled “Mushipan ni tsuite” (蒸しパンについて; On steamed breads) proposing all sorts of nutritious fillers such as various beans, vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, and chrysanthemum greens, seaweeds, fruit peels and dried tea leaves for vitamins, eggshells for calcium.  Many cookbooks of the period include sections on “pastes” which were essentially spreads improvised from things like miso and sesame seeds, to make the breads more palatable. 

In addition to “fillers” such as kabocha pumpkins and sweet potatoes, which could stretch a family’s precious rations when making homemade quick breads, there was a new attention to imported cornmeal. Above right is a 1949 May issue of a wall newspaper Nagasaki Dayori published by the Nagasaki Prefectural government. To the poster’s left is a comic corn figure wearing a chef’s hat asking “Did you know about all the tasty ways to eat cornmeal?”

While use of cornmeal was not very common in Japan, the 1948 book “Pan to okashi no tsukurikata” (How to make bread and confectionary), shown on the left above, features various recipes using cornmeal such as cornbread, corn muffins, and corn pone.  In closing, here is a super economical recipe that you might try as a project for National Homemade Bread Day, given on the back cover of Shufu no Tomo magazine. Happy baking!


Step 1. Dice an unpeeled potato and boil until soft.  Mash while still hot with some of the boiling water. 

Step 2. Add 50g of flour and a teaspoon of salt, mix well and cover with a damp cloth. 

Step 3. Keep safe in a warm spot overnight.

Step 4. The next day, add 100g of flour (or substitute up to half the amount with cornmeal) and if you are lucky enough, a tablespoon of oil.

Step 5. Knead the dough and shape into an oblong ‘koppe-pan’ shape, shown above, small enough for your child to hold in one hand. 

Step 6. After a three hour rest, bake in an oven, if you have one, or a pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat until golden. 


Motoko Shimizu Lezec is Coordinator of the Gordon W. Prange Collection at the University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA)

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Class Event: Japan from the Margins

We had the pleasure this past week of welcoming students from Dr. Michele Mason’s class.  On Thursday November 10,  more than 30 students gathered in the 4th Floor Lobby for a presentation by Kana Jenkins, Curator of the Gordon W. Prange Collection, followed by a slide lecture by Professor Mason.
Below is the short description of the course titled JAPN 424: Japan From the Margins:
Japan from the Margins takes as its focus the history and representations of various others in Japanese society. They include ethnic Ainu, Okinawans, and Koreans, a historical outcaste group called the Burakumin, and people marginalized for their non-normative gender and sexual practices. Students learn about the historical specificities of each group as well as their common experiences of institutional discrimination as they grapple with larger questions regarding prejudice, nationalism, and social justice. Taught in English.
Prof.Mason2 Students1
Following Prof. Mason’s fascinating lecture on materials produced by Korean communities and their censorship, students divided into two groups to circulate around tables laid out with original items from the Prange Collection.  Equipped with a copy of the Press Code issued by General MacArthur’s General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), they were invited to examine censorship actions and try to figure out the nature of the violations.  Next door in the Prange offices, tables were laid out with photographs of Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bomb. These materials drew vivid comments and questions as well.
A big thank you to Prof. Mason for bringing her wonderful students! We were thrilled by their enthusiasm and curiosity about the Prange material. Please come back again soon to discover more.
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Yokoyama Taikan, the “Face of Japan”

This post is a part of a new series featuring prominent Japanese artists of the mid-20th century.

Taikan mug shot

Today we’ll focus on Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958), whose long-lasting career shaped the development of Nihonga, a painting genre conceptualized in the late nineteenth century as the ideal integration of the strongest aspects of traditional Japanese painting schools with modern European techniques. 

Taikan was born on this day, November 2, in the very first weeks of Japan’s new Meiji era. Over the years of the country’s modernization, war, and occupation periods, Taikan created hundreds of Nihonga landscape paintings, most notably of Mt. Fuji. Through his depictions of the mountain’s magnificence, Taikan expressed his love for Japan. Although most artists experienced difficulty accessing art supplies during the war, and many younger artists abandoned their practice upon being drafted, Taikan’s fame allowed him to continue painting even through the worst months. 

By early 1945, the harsh effects of the war halted all activity within the Japanese art world. However, after the war’s end in August of that year, the art world remained at a standstill only momentarily. Despite the widespread destruction in Tokyo, government art exhibitions quickly revitalized and resilient artists resumed their activity.


November 1947 issue of Bi no Tankyu magazine (Call number B92)

The Prange Collection holds numerous materials from this time in which Taikan appears, including photographs, magazines, and art catalogs. 

Publications focusing on art news and exhibition catalogs consistently feature Taikan front and center. For example, he dominated the November 1947 issue of Bi no Tankyu magazine, a publication devoted to fine art and exhibitions. This issue dedicated an entire page to an article on Taikan and used his painting Landscape in Four Seasons (四時山水), mentioned briefly in the article, for the magazine’s front cover. 

Images of Taikan’s artwork appear on the front pages of the September 1947 and September 1948 issues of Nihon Bijutsuin Tenrankai catalog, often shortened to “Inten”, a non-governmental Nihonga art organization that Taikan himself revived in 1914.


His appearance in publications aimed at the general public most clearly underscores his iconic status not just in the Japanese art world, but within mainstream society. The November 1948 issue of Nikkō, a variety magazine with articles covering politics, medicine, entertainment, and more, exemplifies this. Within the first pages of this issue, a pensive portrait of Taikan is printed in full color across nearly an entire page. Below this, a brief overview of Taikan and his artwork appropriately titled “The Face of Japan” (日本の顔) praises Taikan’s mastery of Nihonga and his promotion of Japanese art to national and international audiences alike.

Magdalena Frances Mastrandrea is an MA student in Art History studying modern Japanese art, specifically 20th century paintings. This semester, she is working as a student assistant in the Prange Collection.


The exhibition “FUJI Mountain as Metaphor in Postwar Japan” examines the work of two modern Japanese painters Umehara Ryūzaburō (1888-1986) and Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958), drawing from materials in the Prange Collection.  On view from January 23, 2023 until March 3, 2023 in the Maryland Room, on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library North at the University of Maryland College Park. Open 10am to 4pm Mondays thru Fridays.