Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858)
Asakusa Ricefield and Torinomachi Festival
From the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1857
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991

Many prints in Hiroshige’s series discuss the surprisingly symbiotic relationship between religious celebrations and more worldly forms of entertainment. This image shows the interior of a middle-rank courtesan’s quarters in the Yoshiwara brothel district. Through the woman’s latticed window, we can see a long procession of people participating in the Torinomachi Festival, held at Chōkokuji, a nearby Buddhist temple. Several members of the parade hold aloft bamboo rakes–auspicious symbols of prosperity in the coming year. We know that the courtesan herself has been considering her own financial success, because, although she only watches the festival from a distance, she has placed in the lower left corner a set of hairpins that have an identical, bamboo-rake design.

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