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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print BIKUNI BRIDGE IN SNOW 1858

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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print BIKUNI BRIDGE IN SNOW 1858


Bikuni Bridge in Snow

Number 114 from the series 100 Famous Views of Edo

Date: originally published 10/1858, this is a 20th century edition
Size: oban, approx. 10.5" x 15" overall
Condition: Fine, no flaws, uncirculated print, never framed
Impression: Fine, solid key lines, nice surface texture, tight registration
Color: Fine, deep saturated color and bleed through to verso
Documentation: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Brazillier, 1986, print 114
BIKUNI BRIDGE PASSED OVER THE MOUTH OF THE KYOBASHI RIVER at the point where it joined with the Outer Moat. The view here is to the south toward Sukiyabashi Gate and the current Sukiyabashi intersection. The origin of the name Bikuni-bashi, Nun's Bridge, is obscure, but there is no doubt that in Hiroshige's day it was associated with bikuni, a type of low-class prostitute originally disguised as nuns. They worked in cheap unlicensed brothels known as bikuniyado, several of which are reported to have been located in this neighborhood. 
     Two types of eating places set the scene here. To the right is a stall offering roasted yams, still a winter favorite in Tokyo. The lantern advertises maruyaki, or "roasted whole," and jusanri "thirteen ri" -- a pun on kuri yori (umai) ("nine ri plus four ri," but also (tastier) "than chestnuts"). This particular stall stays fixed in place for the evening but will be loaded onto the waiting handcart when business is over. Baskets of yams rest on the ground outside, near a dog and her puppies.
     Of particular interest is the establishment on the left, a permanent shop (indicated by the eave above) offering "mountain whale," a euphemism for the meat of wild animals. Although it is likely that the traditional Buddhist prohibition of the eating of animal meat had spread more widely in the early Tokugawa period than before, the taboo was clearly breaking down in Hiroshige's day. An essay on Edo customs of 1842 observed that in the 1770s even the lower classes ate meat only in secret, but by the 1790s respectable people were beginning to partake and as of the 1830s it had become a matter of outright pride to consume wild animal flesh.
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