This is a New Year scene at Kasumigaseki, one of many that Hiroshige designed over his lifetime. The most famous of such scenes is #2 of the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Meisho Edo Hyakkei. Women and children are out and about enjoying the holiday festivities. Because this print was published close to the end of the year, it would be attractive to customers looking forward to the New Years events. This view of the intersection of two streets—the vertical one descending from a sloping hill—is the most popular view of this district according to Forrer. Hiroshige portrayed a more distant of the same area in a triptych on the 4th lunar month of the same year.
A merchant along the right edge of the center print wears a headscarf decorated with lines of blue dots and using a bamboo walking stick. He is selling kadomatsu, or “gate pines,” which are planted in front of homes in order to welcome toshigami ancestral spirits to temporarily reside there. These spirits bring bountiful harvests to those who display kadomatsu. Another merchant (Left Print) sells brightly colored children’s toys, some to which feathers are attached. These may be shuttlecocks for a New Years game called hanetsuki, which resembled badminton and was played with rectangular battledores (hagoita). The trinkets have been cleverly stuck into and arranged on the umbrella that he carries. He endeavors to tempt a group consisting of two women and a young boy and girl. The young boy, whose shaven head indicates that he has already gone through a coming-of-age-ceremony, carries a toy octopus on a stick.
In the background, we see various kinds of individuals intermingling on the street: samurai, identifiable by the two swords they are privileged to carry, women and children, and more merchants. A monk begs for alms (Left print, leftward), followed by an attendant carrying a red alms box. A group of pilgrims (Right print, rightward), identifiable by their walking sticks, sugegasa wide-rimmed sedge-woven bamboo hats, are most likely making their way to the nearby Ise Shrine to perform hatsumōde, the first visit to a temple or shrine of the New Year. To the pilgrims’ right, partially obscured by a lady’s red umbrella, is a wealthy individual being transported in a green kago palanquin. The large buildings are two mansions of a daimyō, one marked by an elaborate red gate (Right Print) and the other by a black one (Left Print). The buildings are partially obscured by red suyarigasumi cloud patterns.
Hiroshige portrayed another daimyō mansion in Kasumigaseki with a red gate three years later in 1857 in the print Yamashita-chō Hibiya Soto Sakurada (Hibiya and Soto-Sakurada form Yamashita-chō). The print is #3 in the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Meisho Edo Hyakkei.
Mark & Seal Notes:
The system of formal censorship for woodblock prints, in which an aratame seal and an oval zodiacal date seal were paired together, was functional from 1853-1872.
- Leah Justin-Jinich