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Ryogoku Ekoin and Moto-Yanagibashi Bridge, No. 5 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Catalogue Description:
Early spring scene looking southwest toward the Yanagi Bridge built across the Yakken moat at the point where it meets the Sumida River (area known today as Osan-cho). To the left of the bridge is the smaller Yashiki (mansion) of the Matsudaira lord, administrator for the Shogunate of Tamba. In the distance is Fuji, still under snow. Small boats are carrying their cargoes down to the central markets of Edo. At the top of the scaffolding tower in the left foreground is the Sumo Taiko, the large drum used to announce the start of the Sumo wrestling matches, held twice yearly (Spring and Fall) on the grounds of the temple of Ekoin. As the drum beats, the devoted fans will gather in the temple precincts below. (All of these fans, incidentally, were men; women were permitted to attend only occasional practice sessions). "The location of the sumo tourney at Ekoin reflected the origins of Edo sumo as a dedicatory performance at shrines and temples. From 1661, a system of formal permission for such tourneys was begun by the Magistrate of Shrines and Temples, and by Hiroshige's time a regular pattern of four annual tournaments had been established, two in Edo and one each in Kyoto and Osaka. Originally the Edo site varied among different temples, but from the 1820's on, Ekoin held a virtual monopoly thanks no doubt to its location adjacent to the bustling entertainment district near Ryogoku Bridge (just out of sight to the right of this view). Sumo was performed at Ekoin in the open air (except for the ceremonial roof over the wrestlers and a back row of two-level galleries) until 1919, when the huge ferroconcrete Kokugikan was constructed nearby. After World War II a new stadium was built on the west side of the river, but with the opening of the new Kokugikan in 1985, it is today back again on the Ryogoku side, about a four-minute walk north from Ekoin." (H. Smith in Braziller, 1986, no 5)


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