In the Momoyama period, Kyoto emerged as a large urban center with a newly wealthy merchant class that developed a taste for paintings reflecting their vibrant, affluent lifestyle. Called rakuchu-rakugai (literally, “in and out of Kyoto”), these colorfully painted screens depicted scenes in and around the capital, often illustrating famous scenic spots and important monuments or seasonal festivals. They were painted with great attention to detail and accuracy, functioning much like photographs in recording the activity and landscape of the time.
This meticulously detailed screen shows a portion of Higashiyama, the eastern hills that border the southern part of Kyoto. The site is easily recognizable by the inclusion of the still extant temple Kiyomizudera (second and third panels from the left), which is built high on a mountainside and supported by piers. The main focus of the painting is the structure in the center, which appears to be the shrine-temple complex called Hokoku Jinja, the Toyotomi family’s mausoleum for the warlord Hideyoshi, built in 1599, the year after his death. The action of the painting moves from the right, with a procession of riders on horseback who gallop through the shop-lined streets, toward the complex in the center. This screen is exceptional in its precise architectural details, lush landscape elements, and exact rendering of textile patterns on garments.