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Suido Bridge and Surugadai (Suidobashi Surugadai), No. 48 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando)

Asian Art

Without the three immense carp banners, this view would have been a classic depiction of samurai Edo, looking southwest over the densest single concentration of samurai households in the city, from Surugadai on the left through Banchō in the distance. The banners and streamers indicate that the time is the Boy's Festival, the fifth day of the Fifth Month. The three carp are standards used by commoners in imitation of the military streamers, which they were prohibited from flying. The banners drew on a Chinese legend of a fish so strong that it could leap a waterfall—an image considered appropriate for young boys. This view thus seems to depict witty merchant-class mimicry of the samurai version of the Boy's Festival.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 5th month of 1857
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 14 1/4 x 9 1/4 in. (36.2 x 23.5 cm) Image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34 x 22.3 cm)
    MARKINGS No publisher's seal visible, probably lost when left margin was trimmed. Seals in top margin: date seal and censor seal.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.48
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION This view celebrates the Boy's Festival, which takes place the 5th day of the 5th month. The scene looks across the Kanda River, over the expanse of the densest single concentration of samurai in the city, extending from Surugadai on the left through Bancho in the distance. A samurai procession passes over the Suido Bridge in the lower right. The tall banners, known as "fukinagashi" (military streamers) and the vertical "nobori" banners with portraits of Shoki, the Demon Queller of Chinese legend indicate the time is the Boys Festival, the fifth day of the fifth month. It should be noted that the designation of the month "i5"/1857 shown above, indicates that it was an extra or "intercalary" month inserted to let the calendar catch up. It was a practice for each of the samurai households to fly the banners shown here, celebrating a boy of age six or seven. The three large carps, by contrast, are marks of the "choinin" city and were used by comers for the Boys Festival imitating the military "fukinagashi," which they were prohibited from flying. According to Chinese legend, the paper and later silk carps signify a fish so strong and persistent that it could leap a waterfall. As noted in the Introduction to this series, Hiroshige himself was of samurai origin, a genuine hereditary retainer of the shogun, qualified to wear two swords and to hold formal office within a bakufu fire brigade until age thirty-six. The center shows a black free-standing fire tower. Hiroshige was undoubtedly familiar with this part of town.
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