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Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival (Asakusa tanbo Torinomachi mode) One Hundred Famous views of Edo
|| New reproduction
||225mm x 340mm
We are looking west from the second story of a Yoshiwara brothel over the area known as Asakusa Ricefields-a literal description of much of the landscape. It is dusk as the sun sinks behind Mount Fuji and returning geese cross the sky. Looking closely in the middle distance, we can see a dense procession of people, a very detailed depiction of over 100 tiny heads. These are some of the thousands of visitors to the Torinomachi Festival that is being held at Washi Daimyojin Shrine, just out of sight to the right, within the precincts of the Nichiren Temple of Chokokuji.
The unusual god of this shrine is an eagle (washi) or, in its Buddhist form, the Bodhisattva Myoken mounted on the back of an eagle-an association that made it especially popular among devotees of Myoken in the entertainment world (see pi. 32). The eagle imagery became the basis for various plays on the word tori, or "bird," as in Torinomachi (short for Tori no matsuri), Festival of the Cock, since it is held on the days of the Cock in the Eleventh Month. Another sense of tori is "take," which abetted the popularity of the festival among those in the entertainment trades -restaurants, teahouses, theaters, and brothels-who were eager to "take in" customers.
During the festival, hundreds of small stalls in and around Washi Shrine offered a variety of auspicious foods and charms. Particularly popular were kumade, bamboo rakes decorated with symbols of prosperity in the hopes of "raking in" profits during the coming year. The kumade were made in all sizes, from the very large ones shouldered by some of those in the distant procession, to the hairpins such as those displayed in the room to the lower left.
The Torinomachi Festival was particularly important for the Yoshiwara, which celebrated by opening its three emergency gates and letting all who wished to enter-including ordinary women, who otherwise were never allowed. It was also a monbi, one of the special days on which each courtesan was required by tradition to take a customer-or to pay the fee to the brothel owner if she failed. The rule that normally restricted the taking of customers to the night hours was relaxed, and afternoon business was permitted. It was the single busiest day of the year in the Yoshiwara, and the streets were crowded and noisy.
Turning to the foreground, we are in the room of a courtesan of middling rank. The kumade hairpins have been purchased at Washi Shrine. On the window sill lie a mouth-rinsing bowl and a used towel with a stylish feather design. To the left is the border of a folding screen, decorated with still another bird motif. Peeping out from behind the screen, just above the hairpins, is a parcel of tissue papers delicately known as onko-togami, "paper for the honorable act."
Putting this evidence together, we may surmise that the courtesan has been visited by an afternoon customer. He brought as a gift the set of kumade hairpins, one of which has been pulled out and admired. Now the tissue paper has served its function, and he has departed. The courtesan has washed her face and rinsed her mouth and is relaxing behind the screen to the left, opening the window to let in some cool air. The composure of the design reflects her relief and is implicitly set against the boisterous scene continuing outside. On the panel below the window is a pattern of sparrows, perhaps a reference to a "Yoshiwara sparrow," a person well versed in the ways of the quarter-as one must be to read this print. The term has the secondary meaning of a hiyakashi, one who comes to look but not buy. That in fact is what the artist is as he depicts his private scene, and what we are as we enjoy it.
Finally, we come to the cat, exquisitely depicted, its haunches outlined in the kimedashi embossing technique that makes the contours tangible. Half asleep and half awake, the cat watches not with the gaze of voyeurs like ourselves, but with a gaze that sets it apart in its own tiny world, detached and elegant as only cats can be.
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 |