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Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival, No. 101 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando)

Asian Art

Hiroshige here presents the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters on the single busiest day of the year. However, from the second story of a brothel, the noise and activity seems far away. In the distance, crossing the Asakusa Ricefields, is a procession celebrating the Torinomachi Festival. On this day, the Yoshiwara was open to everyone, including ordinary women. It was also a monbi, one of the special days on which each courtesan was required by tradition to take a customer—or to pay the fee to the brothel owner if she failed. Casually arranged in the foreground are a courtesan's accouterments. Peeping out from behind the border of a screen are tissue papers delicately known as "paper for the honorable act."

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 11th month of 1857
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm) Image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34 x 22.2 cm)
    MARKINGS Censor: Aratame seal. Date seal: Snake II, Eleventh Month, 1857. (Date and censor seal at top margin). Publisher: Shitaya Uo Ei/Shitaya Noei.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga, lower left
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.101
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION This image offers a view from the second story of a Yoshiwara brothel over the Asakusa Ricefields, toward a dense procession of visitors to the Torinomachi Festival, held at Washi Daimyojin Shrine (to the right - not seen here). The god of this shrine is an eagle (washi), popular among those in the entertainment trades. Particularly popular during the festival were "kumade," bamboo rakes decorated with symbols of prosperity offered at the many stalls in and around Washi Shrine. It was the only time ordinary women were allowed to enter the gates to the Yoshiwara. It was also a "monbi," a special day on which each courtesan was required by tradition to take a customer, or pay the fee to the brothel owner if she failed. It was the single busiest day of the year in the Yoshiwara. This scene shows the room of a courtesan who has just had an afternoon customer. He probably brought her as a gift the set of "kumade" hairpins, one of which has been pulled out and admired. On the window sill is a mouth-rinsing bowl and a used towel; to the left is the border of a folding screen decorated with a bird motif, and just above the hairpins is a parcel of tissue papers delicately known as onkotogami, or "paper for the honorable act." In the foreground is an exquisitely detailed cat.
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