Happy New Year! あけましておめでとう~

New Year’s Postcard by Kata Kata, a couple working in Katazome in Tokyo http://blog.kata-kata04.com/

I am coming up to the halfway mark of my program as a research student here in Kyoto. I’ve been attempting to sum up all of the interesting little things I’ve found in books and articles and galleries into some kind of report so I can refocus my energies for the new school year starting in April.

One big “step backwards” for my research proposal last year was discovering that what I had thought were Australian parrots and birds in Japanese 18th and 19th century artworks were probably..most-likely…actually, closely related species from neighbouring Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and other islands. Having digested this, I found a way to ‘re-jig’ my initial proposal so that it still fits the way I want (something along the lines of “Exotic foreign birds in Edo period Japanese art” as opposed to “Australian birds in Japanese Edo-period Art”).

pretty but unfortunately South East Asian Parrots…

Still, I’ve still been hesitant to flatly claim none of the birds in these artworks are from Australia. The Dutch had very early (from about 1606) and on-going connections to Australia via their trading posts in Java and south-east Asia. Slightly later in the 1700’s, British explorers and ships made their way to the great southern land too, stopping off in…Java (!) and various South Pacific and Asian locations. To my mind, there’s a window there where goods from Australia could have found their way to Japan via South-east Asia. Perhaps.

One reason for me to cling to this hope is the humble Crimson Rosella. I’ve been through lists of parrots that were found in Edo Japan and found most of those species can be found in Indonesia as well as sometimes North Australia. However there is one species that is only found in Australia, the Crimson Rosella. Its Japanese name (アカクサインコ) is not so easily confused as the many names for varieties of lorikeets and cockatoos that occur in both Indonesia and Australia. Visually too, it’s quite distinct from other species. Here is one artwork that has to be a Crimson Rosella.

This little guy arrived in Japan on a Dutch boat in 1823, relatively late.

I read today (in an article by Naohide Osono outlining exotic foreign animals brought into Japan pre 1868) that Crimson Rosella(s?) also arrived in Japan 1814. Oh the plot thickens..

Anyway, the reason you set out to research something is to really get to the bottom of it; you can’t predict the conclusion you will come too. I have another year to find out all I can and keep making artwork at the same time.