Cartoon for banner
Hand painted

This cartoon of a family of cranes is a life-sized draft for a banner, possibly for Boys’ Day. The cartoon is so large that it is broken down into two photographs.

Boys’ Day banners tend to have very clear masculine messages. The message here is not so much male-oriented as family oriented, since the two cranes are shown with their nest of five chicks. The parents hover protectively over the babies, who appear content and well fed. Cranes were traditionally said to live a thousand years, so there are the additional underlying themes of longevity, continuity of the family line, and by extension, fertility.

Interestingly, on the reverse side of this color cartoon is an unfinished cartoon outlined in sumi. Thematically, the two are completely different, the black and white cartoon returning to masculine themes, depicting soldiers.

The uniforms worn by the soldiers in the cartoon were current during The Sino – Japanese War of (1894 – 1895) and the Russo – Japanese War (1904 – 1905), which helps to put an approximate age to the cartoon.

Below is a photograph of Count Nogi, a general in the Russo-Japanese War, whose highly decorated uniform echoes the uniform of the man on horseback in the top half of the cartoon. (Image from

Here the hats, unadorned jackets, rucksacks and leggings in the woodblock print are very similar to those worn in the bottom half of the black and white cartoon.