Namban Screens (Left-hand screen)

Kanō Naizen1598 - 1615

Kobe City Museum

Kobe City Museum
24 Kyo-machi, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Japan

All over the world, there are more than 90 screen-paintings called “Namban byobu (Screens)”. This pair of screens in the Kobe City Museum are the most brilliant, elaborate artworks among all the Namban screen paintings. The word “Namban” originally meant “Barbarians from the southern countries” in the Chinese language. This word had a somewhat different meaning in the 16th century’s Japan because foreign people from the south-east Asia sometimes visited Japan. Especially, European people, including St. Xavier, who came across the southern ocean from Goa or Macau, gave strong impressions to Japanese people. Thus, they called European people “Nambanjin (Namban people)” from the 16th century. This Namban byobu was painted by Kano Naizen (1570-1616), one of the retained painters of Toyotomi Clan.
The right-hand screen depicts scenes in a port town in Japan. At the left of this screen, a large sailing ship has arrived at a harbor in Japan. The captain and clews landed and are heading for the city where some shops line. In front of the shops, many people come out to meet the captain. Among them, there are some Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries. Above these shops, there is a Christian church like a Japanese traditional temple. Some Christians gather inside this church and hold a religious ceremony.


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