Hokusai - Ehon Sumida Gawa - Prints 2-1 and 2-2

SumidaGawa2-2 SumidaGawa2-1
2-2 The Benten shrine
near Ichino bridge
2-1 Enjoying the cool evening
at Ryōgoku bridge

Somewhere here spring shifts into summer ...

Ryōgoku bridge (両国橋, which translates into “both provinces bridge”) is the oldest of the three main bridges that cross the Sumida river in downtown Edo. It was finished in 1659 and was the first bridge to be built across the Sumida river after the great Mereiki fire in 1657. It is about 175 meters long. Though not being as large as Eitai bridge, it is slightly more famous because of its age.

Ryōgoku bridge gets its name from the fact that it connects the two provinces of Musashi and Shimōsa. Although Edo is considered a single city, the neighborhoods on the east bank of the Sumida river are actually in the province of Shimōsa, while those on the west bank are in Musashi province. When the bridge was built and became the first span linking the two parts of the city, it was therefore given the name Ryōgoku (“both provinces”) bridge.

The name of the small and also crowded bridge on the far east bank visible on the right of print 2-2 is Ichino bridge (一の橋). Benten shrine (弁天寺) - hidden by the trees - is located right behind Ichino bridge.

In the foreground an Ōyama pilgrim is holding his typical inscripted wooden stick while banners announce an exposition of temple treasures at Muenji temple. Events at which major temples put their hidden Buddha icons on public display have been popular in Japan since the beginning of the Edo period in 1603. A daimyō procession is also seen crossing the bridge, recognisable by the long red tufted standard extending from the crowd and carried by one of the daimyō’s samurai.

The nearest boat visible under Ryōgoku bridge in print 2-2 is a takasebune (i.e., “shallow river boat”, see prints 2-3 and 2-4 for details). Its cargo is almost certainly rice.

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