An ancient literary reference is evoked in this scene viewed from the yard of a tile-maker. The small white gulls in the foreground are miyakodori, or capital birds. Their fame dates back to an episode in the tenth-century epic Tales of Ise, in which some travelers from Kyoto spot an unfamiliar bird while crossing the Sumida River. Learning from the ferryman that it is a capital bird, one lonely courtier composes this verse:
If you are what your name implies,
Let me ask you, Capital-bird,
Does all go well
With my beloved?
Translation by Helen McCullough