Give Me Back My Bonito!

Explore comical sights of Tokyo Nihonbashi Tenchi fish market

By Keio University Library

Tokyo Funny Famous Places: Nihonbashi Land-sky Fish Market (明治16年 1883 彫工宗岡) by Utagawa Hiroshige ⅢKeio University Library

The fish market which subsequently moved to Tsukiji and is now found in Toyosu was located in Nihonbashi during the Meiji period.
This was established in the 17th century and continued to be a mainstay of the food culture of the people of Edo and Tokyo for more than 300 years until its transfer to the Tsukiji Market was completed in 1935.

This is a comical depiction of Nihonbashi at the start of the Meiji period by Ukioyo-e painter Utagawa Hiroshige III.

A fishmonger on his way through Nihonbashi. His wares suddenly purloined by a kite!

The fishmonger chases frantically after his foe.

He drops his barrel and yields his shouldering pole.

But now a dog has taken possession of a bonito which has fallen from the barrel! The fishmonger who is chasing desperately after the kite, however, has yet to notice this fact.

Both the frantic expression on the fishmonger's face and those of the onlookers are humorous.

The first bonito of the season was a luxury food fetching the equivalent of tens of thousands of yen in modern day prices, and such was the passion of Tokyoites for this item that it is immortalized in a senryu verse which goes so far as to say they were "willing to put up their wives as collateral for the first bonito."

Bonito are a natural expression and symbol of early summer. This kind of incorporation of seasonal elements is one of the traditional methods employed in Ukiyo-e depicting famous sights.

Meanwhile, this evocative depiction of Meiji enlightenment era Tokyo skillfully renders scenes of the period, such as the red-brick warehouses with the Mitsubishi company logo...

...The gaslights...

...And the rails of the horse-drawn tramway.

This is a delightful kaika-e enlightenment picture which humorously expresses the spirit of early Meiji while incorporating elements of traditional and emerging culture.

Credits: Story

Ukiyo-e paintings in this exhibition will be included in the "George S.Bonn Collection of Ukiyo-e in the Meiji period".
About George S.Bonn Collection of Ukiyo-e in the Meiji period

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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