Drum Bridge and 'Setting-Sun Hill' in Meguro, c. 1857
Ink on Paper
13 1/4 in. x 8 5/8 in. (33.66 cm. x 21.91 cm.)
Drum Bridge, a rare arched stone bridge in Meguro, led to Ryūsenji, a popular Buddhist temple. The military government built Ryūsen Temple to honor the wrathful Buddhist deity, Fudō-myōō, and ensure the protection of the regime and the capital. Hiroshige’s snowy scene exudes peace and tranquility, with a gently darkened sky suggesting twilight, and the white of the paper left deliberately uncolored to convey a landscape blanketed in snowy silence. As with many of his scenes of Edo, he portrays this corner of the city with great skill and emotion. Judging by the number of prints in this series, he enjoyed rendering his hometown of Edo so much that he could not stop at 100!
- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021
Signed: Hiroshige ga. On verso in pencil: Johnson X 83. On mat in pencil: Hiroshige 100 Views of Edo #111 Megura Drum Bridge Jo X 83.
Nishiki-e, vertical oban; colored ink on paper.
Color woodblock print with an image of two figures walking across a short, arched bridge (Drum bridge), in the snow.
The aesthetic of this snow scene is similar to that of the Fukagawa lumberyards: light snow falling through a gray sky, a bright blue band of water against a world of white, the skillful suggestion of snow accumulated on branches, a similar title cartouche, faces hidden from view, a discreetly enlarged foreground element, and an overall sense of hushed repose. The most revealing difference lies in composition. In his view of the lumberyards, Hiroshige relied on a frontal approach and angular forms. Here, he offers rather an oblique viewpoint. The result is a greater sense of isolation, even loneliness.
This is our fifth and last visit to the Meguro area, but now we are in the valley of the Meguro River itself rather than on the high bluff to the northeast, which leads back to the left in this view. If we were to follow the river here as it flowed southeast, we would come after two miles to its mouth at Shinagawa Susaki. The relevant destination in this view, however, is not the river's but the road's, for this is the main route to the famous shrine of Meguro Fudo, lying just half a mile on to the right. Together with Fukagawa Susaki Shrine and Kaianji Temple at Shinagawa, Meguro Fudo is one of the few truly famous places of Edo that never appear in the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. As with Kaianji, the most we ever get is a tiny view in the distance.
Of the two attractions mentioned in the title, the Drum Bridge was the more celebrated. Arched bridges were unusual enough in Edo, as we have seen in the case of Kameido Tenjin, but even more curious was a stone bridge, which offered few advantages in a city prone to earthquakes. Rounded forms and stone structures were more common in China than in Japan, suggesting a Chinese prototype for this bridge, although it is said to have been designed in the 1740s by a wandering priest who had seen a similar one in Kyushu. It is unclear how long the original Drum Bridge survived; the photograph accompanying Ishii's commentary proves that by 1919 it had already been replaced by a steel structure. The current bridge, although flat, cleverly evokes the original in its repetition of an arch shape in the railings.
The road to the left leads up a steep slope known as Gyuninzaka, named after a wandering ascetic (gyonin) who founded the temple of Daienji on the side of the hill. The slope survives today, charming and uncrowded, leading down from Meguro Station. Overlooking the road to the southeast was the Sunset Hill of the title, here shown steeply curving up to the left. The hill was once known for its maple trees, whose brilliant reflection in the autumn sun gave it the name; the maples themselves had already disappeared, however, by the time of the Edo meisho zue (vol. III) of 1834. In Hiroshige's day, the hill was occupied by a suburban estate of Hosokawa, daimyo of Kumamoto; since 1931, it has been the site of Gajoen, a large hotel and banquet facility.
A subtle touch is added by the gray roof hidden in the lower right behind Hiroshige's signature. This would be known to his audience as the Shogatsuya, a teahouse beside the bridge that was famous for its shiruko mochi, a sweet bean-paste soup. Shogatsu means "new year," a hidden hint of the coming of spring that is echoed in the corner of green bokashi on the title cartouche.
Uoei (Uo-ya Eikichi).
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