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Bikuni Bridge in Snow, No. 114 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

Two types of eating establishments set the scene here. To the right is a stall selling roasted yams. The lantern advertises with clever wordplay that this winter favorite is "tastier than chestnuts." To the left, a shop offers "mountain whale" (yamakujira), a euphemism for the meat of wild animals. Like other momonjiya ("hairy monster shops"), this establishment would have offered, in addition to the standard fare of boar and deer, such delicacies as bear, monkey, badger, otter, fox, wolf, and weasel. To an Edo clientele, wild-animal flesh had special restorative powers.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 10th month of 1858
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm) Image: 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS No publisher's seal visible - probably lost when left margin was trimmed.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.114
    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.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION This view looks across Bikuni Bridge (toward Sukiyabashi Gate and the current Sukiyabashi intersection), where a laden porter is approaching the street beyond where a fire tower rises up. Snow is falling from the deep indigo sky. On the further side is a man with his head buried in his umbrella. In Hiroshige's day, Bikunibashi (Nun's Bridge) was associated with the bikuni, a type of low-class prostitute originally disguised as a nun. The bikuni, who were of a slightly higher grade than the yotaka (seen in print 105 of the series), worked in cheap, unlicensed brothels known as bikuniyado, several of which were reported to have been located in this area. On the right is a stall selling roasted yams, a winter favorite in Tokyo; the lantern advertises maruyaki, or "roasted whole." Baskets of yams lie on the ground outside, near a dog and her puppies. On the left is a shop offering "mountain whale" (yamakujira - meat of wild animals). In an earlier period Buddhist law prohibited the eating of animal meat, but this taboo was breaking down by Hiroshige's day. Shops of this type were always located in rather disreputable places and would offer boar, monkey, raccoon-dog, otter, fox, wolf, and weasel. According to Ishii Kendo, this particular shop was still in business at the same location in 1919, but was offering chicken and beef, meat of domesticated animals. It is theorized that this print may be the work of Shigenobu, the future Hiroshige II. The style and content do not appear to be characteristic of Hiroshige; the empty space in the foreground and the placement of the snowflakes in the sky offer a sense of incompletion.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858). Bikuni Bridge in Snow, No. 114 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 10th month of 1858. Woodblock print, Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.114 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.114_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.114_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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