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Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重)

Print: Silk-goods Lane, Ōdenma-chō (Ōdenma-chō gofukudana - 大伝馬町ごふく店)
from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei - 名所江戸百景)

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Dates: 1858,created
Dimensions: 8.625 in,13.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Hiroshige ga (広重画)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Library of Congress; Honolulu Museum of Art; British Museum; Waseda University; Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna; Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology; Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg;

Physical description:

This copy from the Lyon Collection is trimmed all around. If it were a full sheet it would show the publisher - Uoya Eikichi (魚屋栄吉), according to many sources - in the margin, outside the image, along the lower left quadrant along with the date seal for 7/1858. However, Andreas Marks states that the name Uoya Eikichi is an erroneous reading and that the actual name should be read as Sakanaya Eikichi (魚屋栄吉).

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"The procession in the foreground is a toryo-okuri - a ritual observed during the building of a new house. After the ridge-piece had been set up, the carpenters performed a ceremony which involved prayers and a banquet. The event ended with a procession in which the carpenters and owners of the new building saw the senior craftsman on his way. This is the moment Hiroshige depicted.

The procession is headed by the chief craftsman, carrying a ritual pole decorated with five-coloured ribbons and topped with a gohei made of three fans arranged in a circle. The red patch in the centre of each fan is the rising sun, which had a propitiary significance. The fans are surrounded by a mirror and, below it, hairdressing accoutrements: a comb, two bags of ribbons and a chignon. These elements have a very ancient origin. At one time it was customary to sacrifice a young maiden at the foundation of a building and the articles of female toilet were a symbolic reminder of this practice.

The chief craftsman is wearing a formal costume decorated with his personal badge. The right to use such a badge was occasionally granted to the inhabitants of the city - the richest and most worthy, of course. On his head is a ceremonial hat (eboshi) worn only on ceremonial occasions.

Behind him come the owners of the building, dressed in clothing reminiscent of that worn by the ruling samurai class. They are carrying two hamaya, huge ceremonial arrows using in exorcism rituals to drive off evil spirits. The first takes the form of a signal arrow (kaburaya) that ws fitted with a special device to make a piercing sound. This device was shaped like a turnip (kabura), hence the name. Such arrows were usually used to announce the start of a battle. The second is a hunting arrow with a double tip (harimataya). The kaburaya was associated with the 'male', positive cosmic principle, the yang: the karimataya with the 'female', negative ying. Both arrows are decorated with massive relief depictions of a crane among the clouds and turtle among the clouds and turtle among the waves. Both images are symbolic wishes the longevity with origins in Taoism, one of the main religions of China.

The procession is moving along one of the streets in Odenmacho, a wealthy central quarter of the capital, adjoining the Nihonbashi. This quarter, which appeared as the focus of the transport system linking Edo with the rest of the country, became with time one of the busiest shopping areas in the city. Silk fabrics were the main goods sold here and shops selling them could make up whole streets. The print shows the quarter's Third Street, where the largest firms had their trading premises. The most prominent such business was Daimura and the decoration of the awnings and the advertising sign in front of the entrance here feature its trade mark - a circle (maru) containing the character meaning 'big' (dai).

The sign proclaims 'All sorts of fabric' and, higher up, either side of the trade mark 'Payment in cash. Prices are not negotiable.' This way of trading was introduced by another cloth dealer in the late seventeenth century...

In the early twentieth century, the fabric shops in Odenmacho became a sight not only for the Japanese, but also for Western tourists. Anna Hatsborn, for example, who visited the country in 1904 had the following to say about the central part of Tokyo: 'Then there are the great silk shops, like Dai Maru Ichi and Ichigaya-s - these also are in Nihon-bashi, the busiest part of Tokyo. Far down the street you can hear the din of these big shops, as soon as a customer lifts the curtain, the whole force of clerks and errand boys shout in chorus 'Irashai! - 'Please come in!'"

Quoted from: One Hundred Views of Edo: Woodblock Prints by Ando Hiroshige by Michael Uspensky, p. 170 with a full-color illustration on p. 171.

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There are two other copies of this print in the Adachi Ward Museum (足立 区立郷土博物館所蔵), Tokyo. There is also one in the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.

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Several collections list their copies of this print as being by Hiroshige II.