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Naito Shinjuku, Yotsuya, No. 86 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando)

Asian Art

Why would the artist choose such an odd vantage point? The lowness of the subject matter, apart from the hind view, is important in considering this print in context; it is an appropriate expression of the place: Naitō Shinjuku, near Yotsuya Gate, the western entrance to Edo. Founded in 1698, this quarter was intended from the start as a semiofficial center of prostitution and the first stop along Kōshū Highway out of Edo. The prostitutes at this down-to-earth settlement were described as "flowers blooming in the horse droppings of Yotsuya." Hiroshige pays close attention to the placement of the objects on the ground, from the straw-sandaled legs of the two horses and their groom to the five separate balls of manure.

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 No publisher's seal visible, probably lost when left margin was trimmed. Date seal and censor seal at top margin.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.86
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Both European and Japanese observers have objected to this print due to the lowness of its subject matter. It can also be argued that it is in fact an "appropriate expression of the place." (H. Smith, in Braziller, N.Y. 1986) Naito Shinjuku was founded in 1698 by a group of Yoshiwara brothel owners and was intended from the start as a semiofficial center of prostitution, like Shinagawa Senju and Itabashi, the other stops along the major highways out of town. Shinjuku was named after the daimyo whose estate was reduced in size to make room for it. It was closed in 1718 after a samurai brawl and reopened in 1782, after which time it became most profitable. The artist has offered a detailed view, not only of the butt of the horse and its scattered droppings but also of the straw sandaled hooves of the horses. The trees beyond surround the guard station at the terminus of the Tamagawa Canal, next to Yotsuya Gate, the entrance to Edo from the west. Today, Shinjuku Station is one of the world's largest rail terminals, serving more than a million passengers daily. The huge skyscraper development just west of the station is the location of Tokyo's new City Hall.
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