Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 – October 12, 1858) was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist, and one of the last great artists in that tradition. He was born in 1797 and named "Ando Tokutaro" in the Yayosu barracks, just east of Edo Castle in the Yaesu area of Edo (present-day Tokyo). His father was Ando Gen'emon, a hereditary retainer (of the doshin rank) of the shogun. An official within the fire-fighting organization whose duty was to protect Edo Castle from fire, Gen'emon and his family, along with 30 other samurai, lived in one of the 10 barracks; although their salary of 60 koku marked them as a minor family, it was a stable position, and a very easy one — Professor Seiichiro Takahashi characterizes a fireman's duties as largely consisting of revelry. The 30 samurai officials of a barracks, including Gen'emon, oversaw the efforts of the 300 lower-class workers who also lived within the barracks. A few scraps of evidence indicate he was tutored by another fireman who taught him in the Chinese-influenced Kano school of painting.
Legend has it that Hiroshige determined to become a ukiyo-e artist when he saw the prints of his near-contemporary, Hokusai. (Hokusai published some of his greatest prints, such as Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, in 1832—the year Hiroshige devoted himself full-time to his art.) From then to Hokusai's death in 1849, their landscape works competed for the same customers.
The title of this print lists three different villages northwest of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters. The names that appear first probably represent the nearest places in the view. This would mean that it is a scene looking from Minowa and Kanasugi toward Mikawashima, to the west or northwest. Mikawashima was where the shogun's Crane Hunt occurred almost every year during the winter months, when cranes migrated to Japan. The auspicious nature of the crane made it an important ceremonial gift. Aside from the one or two birds taken on each hunt, the cranes of Mikawashima were carefully protected, as Hiroshige has depicted: the figure in the background is carrying buckets filled with rice with which to feed them. From the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.
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