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Kasumigaseki, No. 2 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Catalogue Description:
Scene looks toward Yurakuchou and beyond to Tsukiji, Fukagawa and Tokyo Bay. Kasumigaseki was a checkpoint on the old Oshukaido, one of the five highways that served as the major traffic arteries of Tokugawa, Japan, which connected the capital with northern Japan as far as Oshushirakawa. This hill (near what is now the Kokkaigijidomae subway stop on the Marunouchi line) was well known for its view of the harbor and sails. A New Year's scene as shown by various festive markers and activities. Kites floating in the sky and the one at the top edge bears the character for "fish," the mark of the publisher Uoei (see also pls. 75, 80, and 106) - a discrete advertisement. To the right appears a slice of a gate pine, a traditional decoration for the New Year. Scene looks eastward over densely settled commoners' section of Edo in the morning horizon. In the center is a procession of daikagura performers, who emerged in the 17th century as presentatives of Ise shrine, performing lion dances in the streets. In Hiroshige's time, daikagura was closer to vaudeville street theatre, complete with ball-juggling and drumstick twirling. The gohei-topped pole, known as a mando is probably inscribed with the name of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess enshrined at Ise. To the left, the daikagura procession is observed by a pair of manzai performers, dressed in priestlike robes, who are making the rounds of samurai residences where they will perform chants and dances to ensure long life for the families. To their left, a sushi-maker delivers his wares. To the right, a mother and child head down the hill, the child holding a battledore for New Year's play. To their right is a "fanbox-buyer" taking advantage of the custom of presenting fans as New Year's gifts. To either side of the street stand two of the largest great daimyo mansions of Edo. The dark two-story row on the right (the mansion of Kuroda, lord of Fukuoka) these walls were in fact barracks for the daimyo's retainers. To the left, also decorated with two short pines, is one of the guardhouses that were strategically placed throughout the samurai districts; beyond it is the mansion of Asama, lord of Hiroshima. Even today, the place conveys an air of authority: since the early Meiji period, the site to the right has been occupied by the Foreign Ministry, which was commonly referred to before World War II as "Kasumigaseki." On the left today stands the National Personnel Building. The steepness of the Kasumigaseki slope - in fact a rather modest slope - was often exaggerated by artists in order to heighten the sense of a detached picture-like panorama in the distance.


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