Funny how an image can jog the memory.  It wasn’t too difficult though.  It brought to mind the small “neighborhood” circuses that I would come across in my small biking explorations around my community in “Kago.”  They seemed to appear mysteriously and disappear as quickly.

I would come upon them only because there was a collection of bicycles around the entrance which might have been only a black curtain, drape or noren.  I must have paid about 10 yen for a ticket to gain entry to the darkened theater.
I don’t recall.  I do know that I had to take off my shoes and sit on a slanted seating area with mats (or maybe folks took their own “zabuton.”  It was cold but well worth the discomfort to watch the entertainment.

It was small and simple compared to circuses today, but full of color and theater.   It was not just acrobats and animals, but also magicians and other entertainment.  At that young and tender age, it was another world and all mine for those few hours.

Daily Japanese Textile

Nagajuban (long under-kimono)
Stenciled; kata yuzen and hand-applied colors

In the second half of the 19th century, foreign circuses began traveling to Japan. In 1886, a triptych ukiyoe by Chikanobu depicts the Chiarini Circus in Japan, with horses, tigers, a lion, an ostrich and an elephant. This nagajuban features various circus scenes with what appear to be westerners in western costume.

One gets the impression that putting this unusual theme on a nagajuban may have been a way to salvage as much as possible from a larger length of cloth that suffered some damage.

The sketches are repeated, but the color details have been applied by hand, and show minor differences.

Above, it can be seen that the paste resist for the stencil was applied slightly unevenly. Below, Chikanobu’s circus triptych. Chikanobu’s drawing style was popular during the Meiji period; the drawing style on the nagajuban seems to place it…

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