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Fall of Aoiga Oka, Yedo

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About the Art

"Aoigaoka Falls" at Akasaka, Edo is a uniquely urban setting in this series of otherwise naturalistic prints. We look from the front of the upper residence of the Marugame fief west towards Aoizaka, as the water flows into the moat surrounding the Shogun's castle. To the immediate right of the scene here, just outside the margin, stands one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan.

In contrast to the unbridled force of nature in the rest of the falls in the series, the water is controlled and narrowly channeled in a man-made structure.

A regular stream of worshippers came to the Kompira shrine in the surrounding precinct. The buildings at the top of the slope and in the bottom left corner are guard posts. At the foot of the print, men clean houses.

The "Aoigaoka Falls" no longer exist. Hokusai might have been the first to dub them "falls", given that the cascading water is actually an overflowing weir at the Northern end of the Akasaka reservoir in Edo, and art historians note the absence of any reference to a waterfall here before Hokusai's print.

With this act of artistic license, Hokusai thus coined a new ‘famous place’ for the city of Edo. Later, artists such as Hiroshige would go on to design their own views of Aoi slope and the weir.


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