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A Scene of Cherry Blossoms in the New Yoshiwara

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A Scene of Cherry Blossoms in the New Yoshiwara

1811
Edo Period (1600-1868)
15 9/16 x 51 3/8 in. (39.6 x 130.5 cm)

Utagawa Toyokuni I
Japanese (1769 - 1825) Designer

Object Type: Print
Medium and Support: Color woodcut
Credit Line: Transfer from the Art Department of the University of Rochester
Accession Number: 1997.43
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view
Publisher: Yamaimoto Kyubei

The Edo period of Japanese history (1615–1868) ushered in an era of relative peace and stability after centuries of war. Urban merchants used their new-found wealth and leisure time to patronize the courtesans, teahouses, and theaters of the city’s pleasure quarters.

The New Yoshiwara entertainment quarter was one of two famous “evil places” in Edo (present-day Tokyo). The five prints that make up A Scene of Cherry Blossoms in the New Yoshiwara show a view along Nakanoch? (Main Street) beginning from the ?-mon (Great Gate) on the far right, during the popular spectacle of the cherry blossom season. The Great Gate, the quarter’s only entrance and exit, was closely guarded; the main street, with its central aisle of cherry trees and lanterns, was thronged on both sides with chaya, or “tea-houses.” Courtesans, identified by their high special wooden clogs, elaborate dress, and retinues of women attendants, servants and small girls-in-training, are easily distinguishable from the geisha, or entertainer, with her two black instrument cases.

[Label text from It Came From the Vault exhibition, 2013]

Along with the theater district in nearby Saruwaka-chô, the New Yoshiwara entertainment quarter was one of Edo's two famous "evil places." This spectacular series of five connected prints shows a view along Nakanochô, or Main Street, beginning from the Ô-mon, or Great Gate, on the far right. Visitors to the exclusive environment of the New Yoshiwara required money, taste and introductions; the Great Gate, the quarter's only entrance and exit, was closely guarded. The main street, with its central aisle of cherry trees and lanterns, was thronged on both sides with chaya, or "tea-houses." There, customers would arrange to meet one of the courtesans who lived and worked in ageya, or houses of assignation, located on the three cross-streets of the quarter.

Accompanied by their entourages, well-heeled male customers turned out in great numbers for the popular spectacle of the cherry blossom season. Courtesans, identified by their high special wooden clogs, far more elaborate dress and retinues that included younger women attendants, servants and small girls-in-training, are easily distinguishable from the geisha, or entertainer, seen here with her two black instrument cases.

[Gallery label text, 2010]

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It Came from the Vault exhibition catalogue Entry for this artwork in the It Came from the Vault exhibition catalogue. The exhibition ran from March 17-June 9, 2013


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