Watch Today in Tokyo: (Ukiyo-e)

Breakfast with Hiroshige


(present-day Nihonbashi/Moro Machi)

Utagawa Hiroshige (1757-1858) was a world-famous woodblock print designer of Japan’s Ukiyo-é genre.

In this Hiroshige print, Fuji Mountain, nestled in a beautifully rendered, traditional depiction of smoky and illuminated fog rests majestically atop a traveler’s column of vision that begins with your vantage point, walking from the foreground amidst the shoppers’ street.

On each side of the street are the store fronts of The Mitsui Textile businessーwhich later became the famous Mitsukoshi Department Store: on the right is the cotton shop; on the left, the main store.

Comprising the banners of the facing sides of the shops ー in indigo-blue dyed panels and enclosed in a circle ー are the three, parallel-lined (Kanji) characters, ‘三’, depicting “mittsu” or “3” and the word ‘well’, as associated with water ー ‘i’ (“ee”). (I actually do not see this one.)

Alongside the circles, from top to bottom, it reads えちごや, or “Echigoya” in the Japanese “Hiragana” script (which is used for domestic words; there are two forms of scriptーthe other being “Katakana”, for foreign wordsーand few people know that in ancient times the afore-mentioned purposes of the two systems were reversed).

“Suruga-cho” – actually spelled as する賀てふ in red, accompanying this depictted woodblock print (The characters actually say “Suru Ga Te Fu”) is the old name of the province of Mount Fuji, with “cho” meaning something akin to area. ‘賀’ (“ga”) is “congratulate’, but just part of “Suruga”, hereーan area name.

Text: Carl Atteniese

Reference: Taschen’s Bibliotheca Universalis’ “Hiroshige: One Hundred Views of Edo”,

Thanks also to Shangyu Wu for translation.

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