Artist: Hiroshige I Ando (1797-1858)
Title: 34. Night View of Matsuchiyama and the San’ya Canal
Series: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
Publisher: Uoya Eikichi
Dimensions: 25.1 x 37.3 cm
The San’ya Canal was strongly associated with the Yoshiwara, the red light district of Edo (now modern day Tokyo). This area was only accessible by boat through a series of canals, the whole journey elevating this hedonist haven into another realm. There, social hierarchies flipped upside down and mingled with one another: samurai had to give up their symbols of status, their swords, at the gates, and the stylish and cultured took precedence over money and class. The Imado Bridge marked the last stretch of the trip where the boats would moor and travelers alight to proceed on foot. Hiroshige hints at these pleasure seekers in the faraway silhouettes of the boats heading to the pillars of the Imado Bridge in between two restaurants on the canal bank. At the forefront of the scene is the mysterious figure of a geisha. She follows her attendant who holds a lantern. Hiroshige’s use of the kiri, or compositional cut, isolates the geisha from her company, allowing the viewer to focus on her impenetrable expression. Her allure is heightened by the stars behind her, doubled by their reflection in the canal. A faint wood grain lent by the printing process provides further texture to the night sky.