December 16, 2020 3 min read

Hokusai’s well-known for his famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and while it may not appear to be one at first glance, NIHONBASHI BRIDGE IN EDO is part of the series. In this work, we see the Mount Fuji towering over the area in the background. While small in perspective, the grand height and width of the mountain is emphasized by the shrouding clouds which had no effects in covering it. This work also suggest that Mount Fuji has always been there, overlooking the people’s livelihoods, even as time changes. Other than Mount Fuji, the presence of the Edo castle’s also quite outstanding.


Nihonbashi Bridge in Edo
Nihonbashi Bridge in Edo


However, don’t be misled by the title of this work; the visible arched bridge in the back is not Nihonbashi Bridge, it’s the Ichikokubashi Bridge and the work was drawn on top of Nihonbashi Bridge. We can barely see the side of the bridge in the foreground, from this vantage, as it’s fully packed with people bustling around, trying to make their way the crowd with bulky baggage. Interestingly, some of these loads were placed on cart, while others were wrapped around with cloth and carried on the back or balanced on both ends of poles, giving a glimpse into the way of living in the past. The crowd’s not a surprise as Nihonbashi’s a bustling commercial place after all, and it’s the start of the Toukaidou main route which runs throughout Japan. The fish market was thriving back then too. People looking for business opportunities would flock there in an effort to make a decent living. However, it must have been quite tough for them as Hokusai has also clearly captured down the facial expressions of the people in the foreground, and they all looked exhausted from their busy lives. In the background, we could see that there’s a slightly gradation of color which implies that it’s quite early in the morning where dawn has just broke, despite being that early, the place was bustling with people already, possibly trying to catch the early worms.

The warehouses lining up both sides of the river reveal that the place has been industrialized. Other than the river, greenery in the grounds of Edo Castle and Mount Fuji in the background, there are no living trees or creatures seen and they were logged to clear the land for these warehouses; it’s certainly not the place to be for the claustrophobics. The sides of the bank were lined up with stones with the purpose of slowing down the rate of erosion, and this gave a nice color contrast between the bluish river in the center and grayish stones on the sides. On the right side, we see henchmen piling up heavy-looking supplies onto boats, where they’d make their way to the stores and customers. It’s really a art piece where we can sense the vitality of people back in the Edo Period, and that has not changed, as Nihonbashi bridge still lies in the middle of the busy districts of Tokyo this day. However, there are some evident changes, firstly the evident different ways of living, and secondly, the bridge itself has been reconstructed during the Meiji Period; it was made of wood back then and now it’s replaced with stones for better safety standards. These differences allow us to appreciate Hokusai’s work even more.

This amazing article written by Yeong!


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