Edition I

Edition II Edition II (from process set reproduction)


Temporary Number


Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I: 楽山 Raku-zan + Seal V
Edition II: 楽山 Raku-zan + Seal B2

[For illustration of seals, see the Seals article.]

Design History:
The designation "WC5" is a temporary legacy numbering. The order of publication of the undated winter cards is conjectural and is therefore subject to change with additional information. Although the exact year of the publication of "WC5" is undocumented, it was most probably first produced circa 1932-1934. The woodblock print of "WC5" was modeled on an original painting on paper (about two or three times larger) whose current location is unknown.

All copies of "WC5" include an all-small-capital, English title woodblock-printed in gray ink in the right bottom margin reading: HEIAN SHRINE KYOTO. It is so carefully carved that it is difficult at first to recognize that it is in fact printed with wooden blocks rather than with a machine press. This title, like those found on presumably contemporary versions of "WC4" and WC1935, is in one of the styles of Rakusan’s own romaji handwriting. However, unlike those other two winter card designs, there are no known copies of "WC5" without a title.

"WC5" is without doubt the best known of the Rakusan winter card prints because of its publication in the Foster booklet (Foster n.d. p.3). Rakusan created a process set of at least sixteen sheets, each one showing a successive stage in the series of woodblock impressions used to print "WC5":

Foster Booklet, page 3

Foster included what may be the complete process set in order to demonstrate the technique of woodblock printing to persons unfamiliar with the complexity and difficulty of woodblock print production.

The "WC5" Process Set shows a later edition II of "WC5" which has attribution markings different from those in edition I. The few individual edition II copies of "WC5" were likely all produced in the early 1950s around the same time as the process set and with both using the original wooden printing blocks. However, there are some slight but significant differences in the process set sheets. The seal (which may have been hand-applied to the last sheet of the process set) is slightly offset to the right relative to other edition II copies. More importantly, all of the sheets of the process set appear to have been shaved narrower along their right sides (and the marginal lines then redrawn) prior to their reproduction in the Foster booklet.

The present location and status of the original Foster "WC5" Process Set are unknown, and it is documented only from the booklet reproduction.
[For additional discussion of the "WC5" Process Set and the other Rakusan process sets see the Process Set article.]

"WC5" was reprinted and sold or given away in large numbers after World War II. Copies of edition I are by far the most common, including all copies remaining uncirculated in the Tsuchiya family's personal collection. "WC5" was reprinted often in many separate, small, print runs. As a result, there are often noticeable differences in hue, saturation, and bokashi shading technique among the various copies. Differences similar to those between editions (illustrated by the examples above) also occur among different copies of the same version.

Unfortunately, Rakusan used white pigments based on lead white for edition II of "WC5". As a result, many edition II copies of "WC5" now show chemical alteration of the original white to orange or dark gray. A typical example is the edition II illustration at lower left above where the white-printed snow on the trees and roof has turned mostly orange. The final overprinting of originally white highlights is most affected. Compare the same areas on the edition I illustration above where that overprinting has remained white. (Note that the edition II illustration taken from the process set was as yet unaffected at the time of reproduction.)

Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Doshisha Archives Center, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan; [not illustrated online].

Location Illustrated:
The Heian Shrine (or Heian Jingu), 平安神宮, Heian Jinguu, is a famous, top-ranked Shinto shrine in northeastern Kyoto. It is listed as an important cultural property of Japan. Heian Jingu was built in 1895 as a 5/8 scale partial replica of the Heian Palace from Heian-kyou. It was built for an exhibition to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the city of Heian-kyou (which later was renamed Kyoto), and afterward was dedicated as a shrine. Nine of the shrine buildings burned in 1976 but were rebuilt by 1979.

"WC5" shows the southwest corner of the Heian Jingu complex. Snow is falling and has covered the trees, roofs, and grounds. Three women in kimonos and carrying umbrellas are walking up the low stairs and to the left. The composition of "WC5" is very similar to that of the upper left corner of the much larger LK1-14 painting, and both designs retain the same viewpoint from above the rooftop of the front gate building.

Heian Jingu also appears in four other Rakusan paintings, but its only occurrence as a woodblock print is "WC5". Four of the five designs (including "WC5") include the same southwest section called 白虎楼, Byakkorou, lit. 'white-tiger watchtower', which is attached to the central building by covered corridor galleries.

Related Designs:

Other paintings of Heian Shrine: [The paintings sections are currently under construction. Subpages for items marked with [*] not yet available.]
*LK1-14 *LK1-2 *LK1-3 *LK2-2