Fireworks at Ryōgoku, 1858, 8th month

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Situated on the shores of Edo Bay, the city of Edo was defined by a network of rivers and canals. Bridges became vital links for travel and communication and also gathering places comparable to the plazas of Western cities. Erected over the Sumida River in 1659 or 1661, Ryōgoku was Edo’s second major bridge.

In the early 1730s, the government sponsored an event commemorating citizens who had died in a cholera epidemic. The memorial, which included a display of fireworks, became an annual observance. Hiroshige devoted more than half of this composition to the night sky, illuminated by sparkling fireworks. On the river below, pleasure boats from which people view the pyrotechnics are festooned with red lanterns that form tiny points of light on the deep-hued water. At first glance, Ryōgoku’s broad arch is a dark silhouette against the river, but a closer look reveals a crowd of tiny figures, each casting a fleeting shadow.

Fireworks at Ryōgoku
Artist Life
1797 - 1858
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Ukiyo-e shūka 14 (1981), Hiroshige list, p. 250, vertical ōban #62.119
Curator Approved

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