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Horikiri Iris Garden (Horikiri no hanashobu)One Hundred Famous views of Edo
|| New reproduction
||225mm x 340mm
Less than a mile east of the mouth of the Ayase River, pictured in the previous print, lay the village of Horikiri, which, like many farm communities in suburban Edo, produced flowers for the city market. The gardeners of Horikiri grew a year-round variety of flowers, but the fame of the place derived from the flower we see here, a type of iris known as hanashobu, which was ideally suited to this swampy land.
The cultivation of iris at Horikiri is said to have been begun by Kodaka Izaemon in the 1660s, but it was not until the early nineteenth century that his descendent (of the same name) began to culti vate a large number of new varieties of hanashobu, reflecting the astonishing popularity of breed ing flowers in late Edo. The iris was one of several flowering plants, including the chrysanthemum, morning glory, and azalea, which attracted cultlike followings that competed to produce ever more colorful and exotic varieties. The major advances in hanashobu breeding were actually made by two samurai retainers of the shogun, who passed on the fruits of their hobby to the Kodaka plantation for commercial exploitation.
In the immediate foreground of Hiroshige's print, almost life size, are three carefully detailed specimens of these new nineteenth-century hanashobu hybrids. They are spatially separated from the background by water-not the Ayase River, but probably a small canal running through the iris bogs. In the distance, sightseers from Edo may be seen admiring the blossoms; Hiroshige noted in the caption to a comparable view in the Ehon Edo miyage (vol. VII) that so many lovely women from Edo came to view the blossoms that it was difficult to tell which were the real flowers.
The hanashobu was already on its way to international fame by the time this print appeared, for it had been introduced to the west by Philipp von Siebold in 1852.
In the 1870s, the cultivation of hanashobu began to spread rapidly in Europe and America, where it was praised as a superior form of iris. The result was a booming export market for the gardeners of Horikiri, and the number of specialized hanashobu plantations rose from one to five (including one in neighboring Yotsugi). The great popularity of hanashobu in the West, particularly in America, may account for what Japanese commentators inevitably allege to be a special attraction of this print for Westerners.
Once the hanashobu was established in the West, however, the demand for Japanese hanashobu roots declined. The Horikiri plantations began to wane in the 1920s, and the last two were turned over to wartime food production in 1942. After the war, one of them (the former Horikirien) was revived and today is a public park, visited by thousands in June when the hanashobu are in bloom. The hanashobu is called "flowering shobu" after the resemblance of its leaves to those of shobu, or "sweet flag," a totally unrelated plant with nondescript flowers that look nothing like those of an iris. As it happens, however, the sweet flag was also in great demand in Edo-not for its flowers but for the pungent fragrance of its leaves, which were traditionally used at the time of the Boy's Festival in the hope of dispelling noxious summer spirits. The growing popularity of the Boy's Festival in late Edo (see also pi. 48) created a thriving market for shobu leaves, which were hung from the eaves of houses, chopped up and put in bath water, and steeped in sake. The farmers of Horikiri may well have cultivated shobu as well, but it was for the beauty of their irises that they were best known and celebrated here by Hiroshige.
Smith H.D and Poster A.G., Hiroshige, One Hundred Famous views of Edo., George Braziller Inc., 1st edn., 4th reprint , 1986Summary Page | Home | landscapes | Previous Picture | Next Picture |