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A Collection of Fungi
2nd year of Taishō (1913)
Author: Tanaka Nagane

This text is titled “A Collection of Fungi.”

“Fungi” are commonly known as “mushrooms.” This text illustrates the 540 varieties of mushrooms found in Japan and on the Korean peninsula. The author, Tanaka Nagane, was a mushroom researcher and advocate of agricultural reform from the Meiji through Taishō periods (late 1860’s through the 1920’s).

Coming from a farming family in Niigata prefecture, he hoped to improve the income of poor farmers in mountain villages. In order to improve mushroom cultivation he pioneered cultivation of shitake mushrooms via artificial inoculation. In order to promote this cultivation method, he traveled throughout Japan his whole life. Neither owning his own home, nor marrying or having children, he dedicated his life to promoting the agricultural industry of impoverished Japanese villages. Today, most of the mushrooms you buy in the supermarket are the product of artificial inoculation and each one of the techniques used to create these mushrooms is a descendant of Nagane’s pioneering methods.

During Nagane’s final years, he retired from instructing about shitake mushrooms and lived with various friends among the literati of the Mikawa area and in thanks for their hospitality gave them many texts. In Nishio city, he lived in the Shōun-ji Temple in Nakamachi, in the Chōen-ji Temple and the Nagura family house in Kaifuku, and in the Katō family house in Kaminagara, etc. and left several works in each location. A Collection of Fungi was written in 1913 for Sugiura Kirin, a large landowner in Kamiyata.

In his younger years, Nagane trained as an artist and for a period of time studied newly imported cutting-edge western-style fungal studies at Tokyo Imperial University. Combined with his keen observational and drawing skills, he was able to adroitly depict the minute characteristics of mushrooms, making A Collection of Fungi a particularly impressive horticultural guide.