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Kinryuzan Temple, Asakusa

#99 from the series 100 Famous Views of Edo

Date: original 7/1856, this Showa era published by Watanabe from recarved blocks
Size: oban, appros.  10.5" x 15.75"
Condition: Fine, no flaws, uncirculated print, never framed
Impression: Fine, with gauffrage (blind embossing) (see photo below)
Color: Fine, deep saturated color
Documentation: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Brazillier, 1986, print 99
AS USUAL IN THIS SERIES, A BRIGHT PRINT WITH AUSPICIOUS OVERTONES was selected by Hiroshige to begin a new season -- winter. The color scheme is kohaku, red on white, which is reserved for propitious occasions. The snow immediately signals the season and is depicted here with particular skill: above, individual snowflakes drift down through the gray sky, while below, on the roof of the distant temple gate and on the ground leading to it, the fallen snow is suggested by texture alone, through a pattern of small embossed dots.

The place is the entrance to Asakusa Kannon, the oldest and most venerable Buddhist temple in the city. Formally known as Kinryuzan Sensoji, Asakusa Kannon is far older than Edo itself. The temple history dates its origins to the year 628, when two brothers (or three, depending on the version) discovered a tiny gold image of Kannon in their net while fishing on the Sumida River. The image was enshrined here, and over the centuries the temple became the object of a widespread popular following that remains strong today. As with all popular temples in the Tokugawa period, Asakusa Kannon was also a major entertainment center, a tradition that reached a peak in the early twentieth century, when many movie houses and vaudeville theaters were located nearby. Since its total destruction in WWII, Asakusa has yielded its primacy asa popular entertainment district to the newer Yamanote areas of Shinjuku, Roppongi and Shibuya, but its appeal as a religious site is undiminished.

Framing the view is the famous Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, of which we see the threshold stone below, a huge lantern above and a slice of the gate itself to the left. The left hand detail reveals two stakes of a green railing, above which is a finely carved net -- doubtless intended to keep out pigeons. Out of sight behind the net is an image of the thunder god for whom the gate is named, paired on the right with the wind god. The gate will be immediately recognizable to anyone who has visited contemporary Asakusa, but in fact this particular gate was destroyed by fire in 1865, and reconstructed only after an interval of close to a century in 1960. the huge lantern hanging in the center of the gate today bears the name Kaminarimon, but in Hiroshige's view, it is marked Shinbashi, the home of its donors, whose individual names are written in a circle around the bottom of the lantern, above the gilt decorations with the Buddhist manji (swastika) mark.

In the distance is the great Niomon, or Gate of the Two Kings, named after the huge guardian deities housed on either side. To the right is a five-story pagoda, and beyond, out of sight, is the Main Hall. All of these structures were destroyed in 1945 and were rebuilt in ferroconcrete after the war: the Main Hall in 1958, the gate in 1964 and the pagoda, which was moved to the left of the gate in 1973.


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