Meiji prints

  Design: Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)  
  Print title: February: A snowy twilight at Matsuchiyama hill  
  Series title: Views of the famous places in Tokyo  
  Size: 35.1 x 23.6 cm (ōban)  
  Original woodblock print    
  Photography: Jacques Commandeur
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Kiyochika Sumida River At Night


Special effects: embossing (kara-zuri) on the snow.

Published in 1896 by Inoue Kichijirrō.

A simultaneous view of the prints in this triptych can be seen here.

This triptych offers a great view from Mokujima in Tokyo towards the west bank of the Sumida river. In the background we see the west bank of the Sumida river, with on the left Shōden shrine located on top of Matsuchiyama hill, and Imado bridge crossing the mouth of the San’yabori canal leading up to the famous Yoshiwara district. On both sides of this bridge many restaurants are located. More to the right Imadochō quarter is displayed. In the foreground we see the Takeya ferry about to make its crossing from Mimeguri Inari shrine in Mokujima to Imado bridge on the west bank of the river.

Specifically, in this left part of the triptych another Takeya watashibune or ferry boat can be seen approaching its mooring point on the west bank of the Sumida just left of Imado bridge where new passengers are already waiting to board the ferry for crossing back to the east bank of the river. Near the west bank also one takasebune or shallow river boat transporting cargo, and two yanebune or roof boats can be seen sailing down the Sumida river.

My copy of this triptych unfortunately has trimmed margins. But as can be seen in Smith (1988, p.103), the left margin of this left print of the triptych contains the following text*). First the printing and publishing dates of this triptych:

Character Reading Meaning Translation
mei light  
ji government Printed in the Meiji era,
廿 ni jū twenty  
kyū nine  
nen year the 29th year (= 1896),
san three  
gatsu month the 3rd month (= March),
nana seven  
ka day the 7th day,
in stamp  
satsu print  
ka day  
hatsu departure published
go on the 10th (of March)

Then followed by the address and name of the publisher:

Character Reading Meaning Translation
rin special  
ji letter  
in stamp  
satsu print Letter printer
ken and  
hatsu departure  
mono person and publisher:
ni sun  
hon origin  
hashi bridge  
ku district Nihonbashi-ku,
hon origin  
machi town Honmachi
ni two  
cho wait  
me capital second houseblock,
ban number  
chi land house number 10,
ino well  
ue up  
kichi good fortune  
ji next  
man Inoue Kichijirrō

On this print Henry D. Smith (1988) comments: ‘ Second month: Matsuchi Hill at Dusk under Snow ... is the finest of all Kiyochika’s triptychs of the years after the war with China. The composition reflects both the influence of traditional painting, with large areas of unprinted white, and Kiyochika’s own Western-influenced taste for the use of enlarged foreground objects. The object in this case is the Takeya ferry that crossed the Sumida river from Mimeguri shrine to Imado bridge at the entrance to San’ya Canal.’

For more information on Imado bridge, the San’ya canal, and Matsuchiyama hill, please also visit my Hokusai Ehon Sumidagawa website.


Provenance: Collecting Japanese Prints (CJP)

*) With many thanks to Naoko and Shinji Ōba for helping me with the translation of the text in this print.

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