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A Kawabaran woodblock print depicting two camels with their ‘exotic’ caretakers

Nagasaki, by Kataoka Harukyu, dated Bunsei 10, the year of the pig, 1827, published in Osaka by Kinokuniya

Woodblock print, H. 29 x W. 42 cm

A kawaraban was a pamphlet that was more or less illegally distributed. Depicted here are two camels. Blomhoff, the Opperhoofd or Chief Merchant of the Dutch settlement at Deshima, had ordered and transported to Japan to perform shows all over Japan as financial support for his Japanese wife and child in their costs of living after his departure to his home country in 1823. The camels from Harusha (Arabia), arrived on a Dutch ship in the sixth month of Bunsei 4, 1821. This ship, the Fortitudo, was painted by Kawahara Keiga in July 1821 in the Bay of Nagasaki (see: Uit Verre Streken, November 2022, no. 52). The text gives a lot of information about the two camels, such as sizes, their diet, and much more. Also, a description of their stunning performances is present. In addition, it mentions that camels are effective as spirit animals; camel urine supposedly is a life-saving elixir and if you hang this

print in a child’s room, children’s illnesses will be lightened, and thunder will be avoided.
The text also announces the camels’ spectacular show at the famous Miidra Temple on the shore of the Biwa Lake in the Õmi Province. In 1821 the eight-year-old male and seven-year-old female travelled from Nagasaki to Osaka where they could be admired in 1823 and to Edo, in Nishi Ryõgoku, in 1824. In 1827 both camels were still alive, but one of them died during a trip to the north. The camel show with ‘exotically’ dressed Japanese escorts, probably to increase

the spectacle, was top-rated in Japan. They were often painted, drawn, and described, and turned out to provide perfect financial security to Blomhoff’s Japanese wife and child.

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