“Grandpa’s Teahouse, Meguro” Then and Now: Vanished View of a Pastoral Past

“Grandpa’s Teahouse, Meguro” is one of Utagawa Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. It places the viewer on a steep hill overlooking the teahouse and, beyond that, a bucolic expanse of rice paddies and Mount Fuji utterly unlike the Meguro of today.

The Shogun’s Favorite Teahouse

The third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, loved falconry and was a regular visitor to the hawking fields of Meguro. On these outings, he often stopped in at a teahouse that a farmer named Hikoshirō had opened halfway up the steep slope. Iemitsu grew fond of Hikoshirō, calling him Jiji—roughly equivalent to “Grandpa”—and so the teahouse came to be known as Jiji-ga-chaya, or “Grandpa’s teahouse.” Hikoshirō’s descendants carried on the family business, passing down the name “Hikoshirō” along with the teahouse itself, and history records that the eighth shogun Yoshimune and tenth shogun Ieharu were also regular patrons on their own visits to the hawking fields and Meguro Fudō temple.

The idea of the shogun being a regular at a small teahouse on the outskirts of the city must have tickled the Edoites of the time. It seems to have been the inspiration for the famous rakugo tale “Meguro Saury,” in which a lord from the provinces enjoys a grilled saury from a commoner’s table on his way through the area and becomes convinced that the finest saury are caught there—notwithstanding Meguro’s landlocked position within the city. And, of course, it was the shogunal connection that inspired Hiroshige to include “Grandpa’s teahouse” in this print.

The golden rice paddies of Hiroshige’s original leave no doubt that this is an autumn view. No rice is farmed in Meguro today, but I made sure to visit the slope on which the teahouse is supposed to have stood during the same harvest season. (Indeed, it still bears the name Chayazaka, “teahouse slope.”) Today it is an unremarkable residential street with only the steep topography unchanged from Hiroshige’s time. Lugging my heavy camera bag and tripod up and down the hill, I couldn’t help wishing there was still a teahouse nearby that I could take a break in myself.

About the Location

Meguro Saury Festival

A provincial lord was visiting the falconry fields when he smelled a commoner grilling sanma, whole saury. Mouth watering, the lord asked for a taste, and found it utterly delicious. At the time, saury was not considered food fit for the high-born, and so when the lord requested that it be served again back home in his castle, the kitchen prepared it in a more refined manner, removing the head and bones and drawing out the fat by steaming the fish instead of grilling it. “What is this?” the lord asked after the first bite. “Saury, my lord, from the sea off Chōshi,” replied his chef, naming a city known for its seafood industry. “Well, there’s your problem,” said the lord. “Meguro’s where they catch the best saury.”

This is the basic outline of the rakugo tale “Meguro Saury,” although many variations have arisen over generations of telling and retelling. It remains so well known that in 1996 it inspired the founding of two neighboring festivals: the Meguro Saury Festival, on the Shinagawa side of JR Meguro Station, and the Meguro Sun Festival (or Meguro Kumin Matsuri) on the Meguro side. These are held concurrently in September, and at each event more than 5,000 saury are grilled and distributed for free to long lines of hungry festivalgoers.

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.

See More: Kichiya’s “Hundred Famous Views” Gallery

tourism Tokyo ukiyo-e One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Kichiya Kantō Meguro