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Silk-Goods Lane, Odenma-cho, No. 74 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

Here we see a boisterous procession of carpenters, among the most powerful artisans in Edo, a city built of wood. To the left is the great dry-goods house of Daimaru, in the prosperous district of Ōdenma-chō, suggesting the interlocked fortunes of Edo merchants and Edo builders. The shop sign to the upper left bears the slogan "Cash payment, prices as marked." This practice, established in Japan as early as 1683, broke down the traditional class-based relationships between seller and buyer, making all customers equal.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 7th month of 1858
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36.0 x 23.5 cm); image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34.0 x 22.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS No publisher's seal visible, probably lost when left margin was trimmed.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.74
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1930, provenance not yet documented; by 1930, acquired by Anna Ferris of Summit, NJ; 1930, gift of Anna Ferris to the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION This boisterous procession is called "sending off the master carpenter" (toryo-okuri) and it followed the ridgepole-raising ceremony for a new building. Since most of the structures in Edo were built of wood, fires were frequent, rebuilding was constant, and the carpenters were among the most powerful artisans in the city. The ceremony lasted several hours, beginning with rituals conducted by a Shinto priest on a platform atop the roof of the newly framed structure, on which the symbolic items, seen here on a pole, were displayed. This sacred pole has cloth strips of five colors, paper "gohei" above, in between three fans with the rising sun symbol surrounding a mirror, below women's hair accessories, said to be symbolic of the sacrifice of a young maiden at the beginning of a large building project. Next came two ceremonial "exorcising arrows," and on the arrows are mounted large carvings of the crane and the tortoise, symbols of long life. The chief carpenter is leading the procession and he is followed by the construction bosses, each in mock samurai ceremonial dress. After the rituals, the homeowner provided a banquet with plenty of drink. The marchers, seen with open mouths, are singing a work song. In this prosperous district of Odenma-cho, at left, is the well-known dry goods store Daimaru. The storefront of Daimaru is shown in careful detail, suggesting the idea of mutual prosperity. Daimaru was a branch of a Kyoto establishment, founded in 1717 by Shimomura Hikouemon (whose family name appears on the sign here) and expanded to Edo in 1743. The shop sign to the upper left says "cash payment prices as marked"; marking fixed prices on merchandise was a practice first established in Japan as early as 1683 and Daimaru followed competitively. It has been said that fixed pricing made all customers equal and that an egalitarian mass society had begun to emerge in Edo far earlier than anywhere else in the world. Today Daimaru continues to thrive at its new location, right over the east entrance of Tokyo Station.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858). Silk-Goods Lane, Odenma-cho, No. 74 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 7th month of 1858. Woodblock print, sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36.0 x 23.5 cm);. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.74 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.74_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.74_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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