Bridging Edo and Tokyo: “Nihonbashi Bridge and Edobashi Bridge”
One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Kichiya, the Ukiyo Photographer: Today’s Tokyo Through Hiroshige’s Eyes
Meisho Edo hyakkei, known in the West as One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, was one of ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige’s most celebrated works, influencing even Western artists like Van Gogh and Monet. Drawn in Hiroshige’s final years and published from 1856 to 1861, the series depicted the sights of Edo (as Tokyo was then known) through the changing seasons. Audiences around the world admired Hiroshige’s inventive use of bold compositions, bird’s-eye-view perspectives, and vivid colors. A century and a half later, “ukiyo photographer” Kichiya has set himself the task of recreating each of these views with a photograph taken in the same place, at the same time of year, from the same angle. Join us in this new series at Nippon.com on a tour of these “famous views” in Edo and modern-day Tokyo, guided by Kichiya’s artistry and his knowledge of old maps and life in Edo.
The Tsukiji of Edo: Bonito on Nihonbashi Bridge
Ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige drew this view of Nihonbashi, number 43 in his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, while standing on the bridge itself and facing east toward Edobashi. The wooden bucket in the foreground is brimming with the year’s first catch of bonito, or hatsu-gatsuo. In the Edo period there was a large fish market near Nihonbashi, and the placement of bonito here indicates that this is a summer scene.
People at the time commonly believed they could add 75 days to their lifespan by eating the first foods of each season. Bonito, though, was said to be 10 times as effective, providing 750 extra days. This was because in a form of Japanese wordplay known as goroawase the native term for bonito, katsuo, could also mean “victorious man.” The craving among Edoites for this precious fish was such that people were willing, as one expression had it, to “put their wives in hock” to get a bite.
Today, the Shuto Expressway all but blocks the view of Edobashi from Nihonbashi, and I was pessimistic about my chances of recreating this iconic scene. When I visited the location corresponding to the original print, though, I was surprised to find that much of the sky remained visible, and I came back on a clear day in early summer and took the photograph you see above.
There has been talk recently of moving the Nihonbashi section of the Shuto Expressway underground after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. If those plans come to fruition, I look forward to retaking my shot the very next morning after work is completed.
About the Location
Nihonbashi, literally “Japan Bridge,” spans the Nihonbashi River in Chūō, Tokyo. In the Edo period, Nihonbashi was the starting point for the five highways (go kaidō) spreading out from Edo across Japan, including the well-known Tōkaidō and Nakasendō roads (now National Routes 1 and 17, respectively), and remains the designated point of origin for Japan’s modern road system. The area has long been a commercial and cultural center, and even today long-established restaurants stand side-by-side with modern high-rise office buildings. The northern bank of the river between Nihonbashi and Edobashi was home for more than 300 years to the uogashi, one of the city’s most famous fish markets that was moved to Tsukiji in 1935.
Location Nihonbashi, Chūō, Tokyo
Access Two minutes’ walk from Nihonbashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and Tōzai Line, three minutes’ walk from Nihonbashi Station on the Toei Asakusa Line, or one minute’s walk from Mitsukoshimae Station on the Tokyo Metro Hanzōmon Line