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Mount Atago, Shiba, No. 21 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

Hiroshige dramatically interrupts this view from Mount Atago in the district of Shiba southwest of Edo with a figure holding an immense rice paddle. The inscription over the artist's signature to the left identifies the figure as the central actor in the "Heaping Rice Ceremony" performed at the Atago Shrine on the third day of the New Year. In real life, this man was the proprietor of the Atagoya teahouse at the top of Mount Atago. Here however he is dressed in an elaborate costume emblematic of the New Year and of prayers for its bounty.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 8th month of 1857
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Image: 13 3/8 x 8 7/8 in. (34 x 22.5 cm) Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga; publisher: Shitaya Uo Ei
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.21
    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.
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    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Scene of the "Messenger of Bishamon" on this third day of the New Year. He is the central actor in the "Heaping Rice Ceremony" performed at the Atago Shrine, dressed in a costume designed for the new year. In real life, he is the proprietor of the Atagoya teahouse at the top of the hill. He wears a ceremonial robe over which are draped strips of kelp which will later be chopped up and according to custom be distributed to shrine believers for the making of a tea guaranteed to ward off colds. He is wearing an upside-down basket on his head, with a citrus fruit and a helmet ornament. Strips of sacred paper are draped from the neck and he is holding an immense rice paddle, all tokens of the martial spirit of Bishamon-ten (one of the four guardian deities of Buddhism as well as one of Japan's Seven Gods of Happiness). At the end of the ceremony, the messenger descends the eighty-six stone steps at the foot of the hill, and greets the clergymen there who are eating from "heaping rice" bowls. Striking his giant paddle, he instructs his audience, "eat, eat." After their reply, "we will, we will," he returns up the steps and re-enters the gate of the shrine. (By custom he was required to walk balanced on high single-toothed clogs.)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858). Mount Atago, Shiba, No. 21 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 8th month of 1857. Woodblock print, Image: 13 3/8 x 8 7/8 in. (34 x 22.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.21 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.21_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.21_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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