by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No. 6

FUNATSU Ranzan, who was a painter retained by the Kawagoe Domain and who painted pictures on the sliding doors of Kawagoe Castle ten years before the Meiji Restoration

Welcome to Kawagoe! Kawagoe is an old town whose history can be traced back to the Old Stone Age. I would like to tell you a story about the Kawagoe of olden times. This story is about FUNATSU Ranzan, who was a painter retained by the Kawagoe Domain and who painted pictures on the sliding doors of Kawagoe Castle ten years before the Meiji Restoration. This is number six in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
The Burning of Kawagoe Castle and its Rebuilding
About 8:30 p.m. on April 15, 1846, a fire broke out in the vicinity of the kitchen of the "Nino-maru" building at Kawagoe Castle. The fire attacked the buildings one after another and was finally brought under control toward daybreak.
The Kawagoe Domain immediately started to reconstruct the castle buildings and completed them after only two and a half years. However, the domain had to borrow a huge amount of money from the Tokugawa Shogunate and many wealthy merchants in Kawagoe. Furthermore, it obtained the materials to rebuild the castle buildings from people in the farming villages free of charge, under the name "offerings." The Lord at that time was MATSUDAIRA Naritsune. He passed away on January 23, 1850 and one of his sons, Tsunenori, became the Lord.
On May 14 of the same year, Lord Tsunenori ordered FUNATSU Ranzan, a painter retained by the Kawagoe Domain, to paint some pictures on the sliding doors of the Castle. Ranzan started his work on June 7 of that year and finished on January 29, 1855. Since he was informed that some parts had remained untouched, however, he resumed his work. It was April 9, 1857 before all the painting was completed. It took seven long years.
Who was FUNATSU Ranzan?
The Funatsu family were from generation to generation the headmen of Kishi-village (now Kishi-machi). It is said that Ranzan was the eighth master of the house. He was the headman of the village and, at the same time, a painter for the Kawagoe Domain. So, I wonder how he learned painting?
They say he studied painting under KANO Sosen Akinobu. According to HASHIMOTO Gaho, whom I introduced to you in the previous chapter, it took over ten years to master painting at the Kano school. It would have been impossible for Ranzan, born into the family of the headman, to apprentice himself to the Kano school in Edo. His diary shows that he went to Edo about ten days per month by boat with a servant named Shinsuke. By commuting between Kawagoe and Edo like this, he must have mastered his painting, taught by his teacher, KANO Sosen, and his disciples in Edo.
Pictures on Sliding Wooden Doors in Kawagoe Castle
Sliding wooden doors (made from Japanese cedar) were used for guestrooms in the "Shoin" style of traditional Japanese architecture. A door consisted of a piece or pieces of cedar board with black lacquer frames. The pictures, which were directly painted onto the board, are called "Sugito-e."
Twenty doors with "Sugito-e" paintings by Ranzan exist in "Honmaru-goten," the remaining part of Kawagoe Castle. When you go into the "Honmaru-goten," there is a big hall in front of you. On your left, you will find a picture called "Pine Tree," that is still quite colorful. His painting is magnificent, actually belonging to the Kano school.
'Honmaru-goten, ' the remaining part of Kawagoe Castle
"Honmaru-goten, " the remaining part of Kawagoe Castle
'Sugito-e' paintings by FUNATSU Ranzan
"Sugito-e" paintings by FUNATSU Ranzan
by courtesy of Kawagoe City Museum
Ranzan also painted "Unryu (Dragon in Clouds)" on the ceiling of the main hall of the Youjuin Buddhist Temple. From olden times, dragons have been painted on the ceiling of Zen temples that lecture in Buddha's teachings. People believed and still believe that the dragon is closely related to water and brings rain. Metaphorically, they consider a dragon on the ceiling will bring "rains of Buddha's teachings."
KIMURA Toyotaro and Ranzan
Please excuse me for changing the subject a little, but I'd like to tell you about the buildings of the "Kurazukuri-shiryokan (Kurazukuri Museum)" along Ichibangai Street (Map C-2). They were built soon after 1893 when the Great Fire of Kawagoe occurred.
The Kurazukuri Museum
The Kurazukuri Museum
In 1972, Kawagoe City entered a contract with a private restaurant and some parts were destroyed during construction. However, many Kawagoe citizens hoped that it could be used as a museum. Under the leadership of the late KIMURA Toyotaro, a city councilman, the interested people negotiated with the city and finally it was decided to preserve it as a historical site. Since the campaign was successful, we can now enjoy these beautiful old rows of houses.
Toyotaro was a great-grandchild of Ranzan. The power to produce beauty and the power to preserve beauty, I feel that surely they were connected by the same blood.
Why don't you visit the "Honmaru-goten" and the Kurazukuri Museum? You will feel the spirit of Ranzan and that of his great-grandchild. You will also enjoy Ranzan's works at Ranzan Memorial Art Gallery near the Kurazukuri Museum.
Ranzan Memorial Art Gallery
Ranzan Memorial Art Gallery
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

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Illustration of Kawagoe