CHAPTER 16: MISCELLANEOUS LANDSCAPE SERIES (OBLONG) BY HIROSHIGE
In this chapter we will describe various miscellaneous oblong series
of views by Hiroshige, dealing with Yedo, Kyoto, and other districts of
Japan; his different
Eight Views, and
Six Tama Rivers are dealt
with elsewhere under their particular titles
in company with series by other artists illustrating the same subject.
Under the title of
Yedo Views, Hiroshige issued a large number
of series with different publishers. Mr. Happer states that nearly fifty
different series of indefinite number, in various sizes and shapes, are
known, thus giving some idea of the popularity of this subject.
The earliest known series (very uncommon) is a set complete, according to Mr. Happer, in ten views, each full size, oblong, issued by the publisher KAWA-SHO, and may be recognized by the narrow decorative border (omitted in late editions) in varied patterns with round corners, each signed in full Ichi-yusai Hiroshige. It is also characterized by the red clouds in the sky. The title and sub-title are written on the print itself, inside the margin; outside is the name and address of the publisher, Kawaguchi Shozo (usually in other series shortened to Kawa Sho-vide Appendix).
The different plates in this series are :-
2. Evening Moon at Ryogoku Bridge, a view looking through and under the bridge, past one of the wooden piles, behind which appears the moon partly hidden by cloud.
4. First Cuckoo of the year, Tsukudashima, a crescent moon over the island, across which flies the cuckoo.
5. The Sumida River at the time of
leaf-cherry, that is, early summer; a river view with two
sailing barges and a raft on it.
7. Ebb Tide at Shiba-ura, and people in the distance gathering shell fish.
8. Susaki, New Year Sunrise. A very fine snow scene, considered the masterpiece of the set. On the horizon the deep red orb of the sun is just emerging above the ocean; in the foreground, close to the water's edge, a cluster of houses, and a shore line, edged with trees which are bent with the weight of snow, trails off towards the horizon.
9. Full Moon at Takanawa. View of the sweep of the shore of Yedo Bay, and wild geese flying across the face of the moon.
10. The Lotus Pond, Shinobazu,
Uyeno Park. View of the pond and, on the left, a torii at the end of the causeway, in centre
of which is a small
drum bridge, leading to the shrine.
The series of most uniform excellence is
probably that entitled
Celebrated (Views of) Toto (Toto or Yeto being
alternative names for Yedo), the next earliest issue to the above, published
by SANOKI, whose mark of KIKA-KUDO is stamped on the margin in red with
the kiwame (
perfect) seal above
it. The title is in a yellow, oblong label outside the margin, and projects
somewhat above the top border. A view from this series of the Yoshiwara
at night, under a full moon, is given at Plate 20.
Owing to an error, the margin showing the position of the labels has not been reproduced, but both the SANOKI and KIKA-KUDO seals are reproduced in the Appendix.
Another series, also issued by Sanoki, may be distinguished from the foregoing by having the title, which is also in a frame on the margin of the print, placed a trifle lower down, while the shape of the frame is slightly different. The publisher's stamp in the margin is that of SANOKI, in red, instead of Kika-kudo, and the border is shaped slightly differently at the corners. Hiroshige's signature, too, is written in his middle period form; in the previous Sanoki issue it is in an earlier script.
One of the best views in this series (reproduced at Plate 22 in the Happer catalogue) is that of the yearly festival at Asakusa Temple, showing the crowds of people thronging up the temple steps under their umbrellas, during a heavy snow-storm. Except for slight touches of yellow and green, this is a print in one colour only, effect being produced by the contrast between the brilliant red of the temple and the snow.
Yet a third series by Sanoki is one with the title
of The date of this series is, perhaps,
intermediate between the last two. The title is in a frame similar in
shape and position to the previous series, to which Asakusa Temple under
snow belongs, but the publisher's seal is that of KIKA-KUDO (in red),
and is placed higher up in the margin.
The view of the Yoshiwara under snow, in early morning, reproduced at Plate 20, is an example from a Toto Meisho series issued about 1846, during the Prohibition period, as it carries two inspectors' seals, those of Watanabe and Kinugasa, alongside Hiroshige's signature. The title is on a yellow label, outside the right-hand margin as in the previous series, but the publisher's mark is that of SANOKI printed in black (instead of stamped) at the foot.
Before proceeding to other Yedo Meisho series in which the titles are on the face of the print itself, we will indicate certain views which occur in one or other of the foregoing sets, and which are particularly notable.
White Rain on Nihon Bridge. In the foreground
is a view of part of the bridge, with people hurrying across, and
rain (a sudden shower lit up by sunlight) falling against a pale
sky, while on the horizon looms up a grey Fuji (printed from colour-block
only). Red seal of Kika-kudo in margin.
Snow at Shiba Akabane. View looking straight down a deep-cut canal to a small bridge, beyond which rises a red pagoda, half-hidden in the snow-covered woods. On the right of the canal runs a broad road, along which pass a few wayfarers, and on the further side is the long wall of a daimyo's palace or barracks, above which rises a high wooden tower through trees. A very fine snow scene. Sanoki seal in red.
Falling Snow in the Gardens of Kameido Temple. Another famous snow scene. A series of small bridges, joining islets across a lake, lead up to the temple entrance on the right. Round the edge of the lake are deserted booths and shelters; red seal of Kika-kudo.
Twilight at Takanawa. Three large junks with immense square sails are coming to anchor off the wharf crowded with carts and travellers; behind their masts blue clouds in a sunset sky and birds flying to rest. Kika-kudo seal. (See Plate 20, Illustration 3.)
Atago Hill, Shiba. View from the hill looking out over the roofs of the city towards the bay; on the left, partly hidden by a tree, a rainbow arches across the sky. Only two other rainbow scenes are known to the writer, one a view in the
At Illustration 4, Plate 20, is an excellent snow scene showing the
Benkei Canal in winter-time, in the Sakurada district of Yedo, from a
series of YEDO MEISHO published by Arita-ya,
whose seal is in the bottom corner. Alongside Hiroshige's signature is
the aratame seal (
below that a date-seal which reads Tiger uru 7, that is, intercalary 7th month, Tiger year= 1854.
Through the publisher Yamada-ya Hiroshige issued a set of Yedo Views known as the Yamada-ya figure set, so called from the prominence of the figures introduced into the composition.
The set is supposed to be complete in forty plates, which were issued
between the years 1853 and 1858, though there are none for the year 1855
and only one for 1856. Those dated after the
last year of the Prohibition period (i.e. 1854) do not carry inspectors'
seals, but are marked with the aratame (
This set may be identified by having the series title on a narrow vertical label, and the sub-title on a square one projecting from it, in the top right-hand corner, very similar to the two labels on the well-known upright set,
The views comprising this set vary in quality, and owing to the late date at which some were issued the colouring is at times crude and harsh. The best plate is that of the Tea-water Canal, Yedo, in a heavy snowstorm, the deep blue water of the canal flowing between high banks, crowned on one side with trees, all under a thick mantle of snow, falling from a black sky, making a picture of wonderful contrasts. Two women under umbrellas mount the road overlooking the canal, followed by a man.
Another plate rather better than most is that entitled Nihon-bashi, Yedobashi, showing two women and a girl crossing Nihon Bridge, followed by two fishmongers, the girl pointing to Yedo Bridge in the distance. Mists lie over the distant roofs and on the horizon Fuji rises above its foothills. Dated Ox 11 (11th month, 1853).
Other good plates are: Akabane Sui Tengu,
Water Birds at Akabane, a facetious reference to two women
crossing a bridge over a canal in a heavy downpour of rain from a dark
sky; in the background is seen a long row of barracks and a watch-tower
above them. The date-seal (Hare 3 = 1855) is printed over the water of
the canal. No censors' seals.
Matsuchi-yama, Saruwaka cho. Three girls standing under some trees by a railed-in walk overlooking Young Monkey Street (i.e. Theatre Street); in the distance appears the pagoda of Kinryusan Temple. Dated Ox 11 = 1853.
The foregoing series is interesting from the fact that at this date Hiroshige had practically abandoned the oblong form of print for the vertical; in this set, however, he reverts to his former shape.
The above constitute some of the principal
Yedo Meisho series
in oblong shape, prints of which the collector is most likely to come
across. As already stated, about fifty different series, in various shapes
and sizes, issued by various publishers, are known, but as many are now
represented by only an occasional print, little purpose would be served
by giving up space to them.
Under the title Koto Shokei,
Views of Yedo, Hiroshige issued a set of eight, full-size, oblong
views, through the publisher Kawasho. This series is very uncommon. Title
in white on a red label.
With the title Yedo Komyo Kaiseki Tsukushi,
Famous Resorts (i.e. Tea-houses) of Yedo, Hiroshige issued
through the publisher Fuji-Hiko, about the
year 1840, a series of which twenty-nine plates are known, showing the
principal tea-houses in and around Yedo. Like the Yamada-ya
Meisho series, they vary in merit considerably, some being much
better than others. The colours at times are somewhat crude, and certain
views are put out of balance by the too prominent figures in the foreground,
which distract the attention from the subject of the picture and tend
to blot it out.
The view from this series here illustrated at Plate 21, showing the Teahouse by the Imado Bridge, does not exhibit these defects, the colours being well-blended, and the figures in the boat well-proportioned to the rest of the design. This series is very uncommon. The publisher's mark is often introduced into the picture itself; in the example here illustrated it will be found on the awning of the boat just over the head of the woman with the samisen, with the kiwame seal above it.
Yedo Views (oblong) by Hiroshige II we have already mentioned
in an earlier chapter his set printed in blue, issued through the publisher
Senichi, and dated 1862. A view from this
set is illustrated at Plate 7, page 68.
At the same plate we reproduce an excellent snow scene from an earlier set over the signature Shigenobu, and dated Horse 10 (10th month, 1858), one month after the death of Hiroshige; publisher Yamaguchi-ya (Tobei). Another plate from the same series is illustrated at Plate XXVIII in the Happer catalogue.
Yet a third series is one with the title
Yedo Meisho on
a narrow vertical label and signed Hiroshige II; and dated Sheep 2 (2nd
month, 1859); publisher Fuji-Hiko. In this
case the date is incorporated with the aratame seal in one round seal,
1859 being the first year in which such incorporation is found.
In the Happer catalogue a view from this set is illustrated at Plate
XXIX, signed in full, Shigenobu changing to the second
Hiroshige, and with the note
the only print thus signed that
could be found, although hundreds of prints were examined.
The title, Kyoto Meisho no uchi, and sub-title are on the face of each print; publisher's seal of Yeisendo or Kawaguchi on the different plates.
The following are the plates comprised in this series:
1. The gold-plated Kinkakuji Temple at Kyoto, by the shores of a lake, surmounted with a large bird with its wings outstretched; behind it a hill rises out of the mist.
2. Tsuten Bridge spanning a gorge, through which rushes a torrent, with red maples on either bank, and people picnicking.
3. View of Arashi-yama, famous for its cherry trees. A hill-side covered with pines and blossoming fruit trees; at the foot runs the Oi River along which two men are poling a raft.
Village of Yase; a path through fields, along which women with
loads on their heads are walking.
5. A large boat being poled along the Yodo River with a company o people under a straw awning having refreshment, served from a small boat tied alongside; above shines a full moon with a light cloud across it.
6. Gion Temple under snow. The torii, railings, and stone lanterns at the entrance to the temple grounds, and three women just outside, and a fourth, all with umbrellas, coming out. In the background, the roofs of the temple buildings covered with snow falling from a dark sky. The masterpiece of the set, frequently illustrated.
7. Shimbara, one of the gates of the Yoshiwara quarter of Kyoto, and a reveller being escorted out in the early dawn; overhead a crescent moon. Another fine plate. (See Plate 21.)
8. Storm on the banks of the Tadasu River. Tea-houses by the riverside under a heavy downpour of rain, and people rushing for shelter. In the foreground, two people hurrying across a plank bridge; in the background, a forest of trees rendered misty through the downpour. In best impressions sky should be black at top, and trees stand out distinct against a graded grey background. Another masterpiece. (See Plate 2i.)
9. View of the Kiyomidsu Temple standing on the hill-side amongst cherry trees in bloom; tea-house on left.
10. People taking
evening cooling; in the dry bed of the Kamo River
at Kyoto. Another fine plate, the deepening shadows of nightfall producing
a wonderful atmospheric effect.
Views of the Main Island. A set
of which fourteen prints are known (Happer collection); full size, oblong;
publisher Fujihiko (Matsubarado); very rare.
According to the Happer catalogue the following are the titles to the fourteen plates:
Nihon Minato Tsu-kushi,
The Harbours of Japan; ten full-size, oblong views, published by MARUSEI; rare.
Sankai Mitate Sumo,
His signature is on a red label, like on his various upright series, a device employed from 1850 onwards.
As examples from this series we quote the following views :-
1. Echigo, Kamewari Toge. Kamewari Hill, Echigo Province. Considered one of the best plates in the series. View of a winding road round a narrow inlet, leading up through the mountains, which rise sheer up from the water; a rest-house at a bend in the road along which travellers are passing. Dated Horse 8.
2. Marunami, Sanuki. Marunami, Province of Sanuki. View from above the harbour looking across the sea to islands in the distance; on the left, overlooking the harbour, stands a castle amid trees. Dated Horse 8.
3. Echizen, Mikuni. Mikuni, Province of Echizen. View from the seashore, off which several junks are at anchor, and parties of people sitting by the water's edge, or strolling about. Dated Horse 8.
4. Uraga no ura, Sagami. Uraga Bay, Sagami Province. View of a narrow, enclosed harbour with several junks at anchor, two lowering sails; headland juts out from the right, with a beacon at its point. Dated Horse 7.
5. Tanokuchi, Province of Bizen. View over a bay in centre of which stands a great rock shaped like a ship in full sail; hilly coast beyond. In right foreground a village lying on the shores of an inlet in a semicircle, and a torii erected on a reef of rocks in the water close in shore; junks at anchor. Dated Horse 8. (See Plate 21, Illustration 4.)
With reference to the dating of the foregoing series, the oval form of the seal, and the fact that there are no inspectors' or aratame seals, fix the date as for the year 1858; the previous Horse year (1846) fell within the Prohibition period (1842-1853).
The Seven Hot Springs of Hakone; a series
of seven full-size, oblong plates; publisher Sanoki; dated Rat 12 = 12th month, 1852; very rare. The seven springs illustrated
are : Yumoto, Ashinoyu, Kiga, Miyanoshita, Sokokura, Dogashima, and Tonosawa.