The City Flourishing, Tanabata Festival

The City Flourishing, Tanabata Festival

This ukiyoe depicts the scene of Tanabata Festival or Star Festival. Tanabata Festival is one of the traditional annual events in Japan. Every July, we set up a bamboo tree decorated with various shapes of colorful paper and enjoy time watching the bamboo tree and decorations swaying in the summer breeze. In this ukiyoe, we see colorful paper decorations in the shape of a fish, watermelon or gourd, and also see strips of paper with words on them on the upper left corner. People write their wishes on these strips of paper hoping the wishes will be realized, and tie them to the bamboo tree.

Hiroshige depicted this scene near today’s Kyobashi, which is located along Ginza Shopping Street.

The white plaster walls and dark blue roofs of houses are exaggerated in the foreground. In contrast, the roofs behind them are depicted at a much smaller size than them. This contrast gives this ukiyoe an excellent sense of depth. Similarly, several bamboo decorations are depicted in an exaggerated manner in the foreground, while a lot of smaller decorated bamboo trees are depicted behind them.

We see Mt. Fuji in the center and the buildings of Edo Castle on the right. Because of the wonderful perspective Hiroshige created, they seem to be located far away. Red mist, shining by reflecting the sunset glow, is flowing around Mt. Fuji. About 150 years ago, Mt. Fuji could be seen from the center of Tokyo. The contrast between the movement of the bamboo decorations and the stillness of Mt. Fuji is beautifully expressed by Hiroshige’s superb technique.

 

Ryogoku Fireworks

Ryogoku Fireworks

This ukiyoe depicts a fireworks display at Ryogoku. Ryogoku, where stands Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall, is now famous as the town of sumo.

The Ryogoku fireworks display started about 300 years ago as a memorial event for a great number of people who died of cholera and famine.

Today, this fireworks display is still carried on every July. However, today’s display is held on a much larger scale by using much more fireworks with more different varieties of colors and shapes.

The display Hiroshige depicted about 200 years ago, on the other hand, doesn’t depict the bustle of the event with many gorgeous fireworks and excited onlookers. Rather, it conveys a quiet atmosphere.

In the center, the thin line shows the track of a firework shot off from the site on the river. The vaguely depicted line and the shape make us feel the short and fragile life of the firework, which reminds us of our transitory life. Even many glows of fireworks on the upper right corner also look gloomy. Hiroshige’s blue(prussian blue) covers most part, which adds to the stillness. The wonderful gradation of blue and the well-thought composition of the bridge and ships effectively create a sense of depth.