Yoshu Chikanobu's "Chiyoda Inner Palace" series of woodblock printed triptychs was first published from 1895-1897. It depicts the lives of women in Edo Castle before the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the palace was home to the shogun and his court. Edo Castle was also known as Chiyoda Castle, and the Inner Palace area housed the shogun's wife and unmarried daughters, his male heir, and many ladies-in-waiting and servants. After 1868, the shogun's family were forced out of the palace and it became the Imperial Palace. This series of 40 scenes illustrate seasonal activities, ceremonies, rituals, and pastimes both inside and outside of the women's private quarters.
Signed: “Yoshu Chikanobu” with red toshidama seal
Colored ink woodblock triptych print.
Six women in the foreground are guards, uniformly dressed in thick black robes and protective headgear. They are responsible for protecting the Ooku evacuees whenever there is a fire or other disturbance. Several carry halberds (naginata) sparks, and the woman at left appears to be reporting to the one on horseback, who is probably their officer of the guards. Beyond them are similarly garbed shadow figures and palace buildings silhouetted against burning embers being blown over the Edo Castle walls. Within the hierarchy of the Ooku ranks, certain people were assigned heavy labor duties, such as carrying palanquins and fighting fires, and such women were often recruited from farming or merchant families. The elite guards of the Inner Palace would have come from samurai backgrounds.
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