After the Festival

After the Festival by Mortimer Menpes. 1901. Watercolor. Source: Japan: A Record in Colour, facing p. 50. There are thousands of festivals in Japan. Not only are there the nationally observed holidays (of which the biggest is at the turn of the year), but there are also various kinds of festivals at individual shrines and temples, in which every neighbourhood participates. They are colourful, lively and go on late into the evening, but the next day everything disappears — the kiosks along the roads leading to the shrine are dismantled, the roads themselves are swept clean. Soon, only the fragrance of the incense lingers in the air — but according to Menpes, "No Japanese ever smells incense: he is merely conscious of it. Incense is full of divine and beautiful suggestion; but the moment you begin to vulgarise it by talking, or even thinking, of its smell, all beauty and significance is destroyed" (11).

In this painting, the artist's eye has obviously been drawn to the blue banner, still fluttering a little in the breeze, the only sign that the stall here once invited passing throngs to stop and enjoy some wayside refreshments. — Jacqueline Banerjee

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Menpes, Dorothy. Japan: A Record in Colour. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1901. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Libraries. Web. 23 June 2019.

Created 22 June 2019