Hokusai - Ehon Sumida Gawa - Prints 2-5 and 2-6


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SumidaGawa2-6 SumidaGawa2-5
2-6 Rainbow above
bamboo warehouses
2-5 Sudden rain
at new Yanagi bridge
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Shin Yanagi bridge (新柳橋, meaning “New Willow bridge”) is located just north of Ryōgoku bridge; it was built across the mouth of the Kanda river in 1693. People crossing Shin Yanagi bridge are being caught by a sudden gust of rain. The rich use umbrellas or hats to protect themselves against the rain; the poor are forced to fall back on their own clothes or simple straw mats as shown in print 2-6.


There is no doubt that Utagawa Hiroshige must have been not only familiar with, but also inspired by these images of Hokusai’s second Sumida Gawa picture book when he designed his even more dramatic vertical “Sudden shower over Shin Ōhashi bridge and Atake” print published around 1857 that can be seen here.


The bridge on the far east bank visible in the middle of print 2-6 (click to enlarge) is Okura bridge (御蔵橋, which translates into “storehouse bridge”). It derives its name from the bamboo storehouses mentioned in the title of print 2-6 that used to be located there. These bamboo storehouses (御竹蔵, pronounced as Otakegura) were not buildings as the word storehouse may suggest. This part of Edo was actually a wooded area where bamboo - and more generally any kind of wood needed for construction - was stored in the open air. This wood storage area was moved from Honjo to the Fukugawa district in 1734 where it became known as the “Sarue (quarter) wood storehouses” (猿江御材木蔵, pronounced as Sarue Ozaimokugura). The relative locations of the original and later wood storage areas can be seen in the following detail of this Edo map of 1858 (click to enlarge):

Otakegura

Original and later wood storage locations on an Edo map from 1858


Almost eighty years later (in 1879) Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) designed this print of Okura bridge:

Okura Bridge

Okurabashi bridge by Kobayashi Kiyochika (1879)


The original wooden Yanagi bridge (柳橋) was replaced with an iron bridge in 1895. This was replaced again in 1929 with the current iron bridge:

Yanagi bridge today

Yanagibashi bridge today


In 1956 Asano Takeji designed this print of Yanagi bridge, as it was called by that time because Moto Yanagi bridge then no longer existed and the kanji Shin (新) for “new” was therefore no longer necessary and had been dropped. This print contains a view of Yanagi bridge - including another yanebune (i.e., “roof boat”) - as seen from the Kanda river looking east towards the Sumida river (click to enlarge):

Yanagi bridge by Asano Takeji

Moonlight at Yanagi bridge by Asano Takeji (1956)


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