Suido Bridge and the Surugadai Quarter
"One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" is a series of 120 ukiyo-e prints (one bears the seal of Hiroshige II and another is a catalogue) created by Hiroshige Utagawa. The series was produced during Hiroshige's twilight years and is considered to be his most magnificent work. It is literally Hiroshige's masterpiece that symbolizes the culmination of his life as an ukiyo-e master.
This "Suido Bridge and Surugadai Quarter" shows a view of Surugadai on the festival day of the Tango no Sekku (also known as Children's Day), from the plateau of Hongo.
The river at the bottom of the image is the Kanda River. There used to be a potable water pipe down the river (outside left of the image), which supplied drinking water to the people of Edo; hence, the nearby bridge was named "Suido (water service) Bridge."
The scales of the carp-shaped streamers (known as Koinobori) at the front are expressed with the traditional method of Edo woodblock prints known as Kirazuri.
The method uses the mixture of mica powders and mineral pigments in glue solution and produces a glittering effect, adding a dynamic visual impact to this bold composition.
Founded during the Ansei period (1854-1860), Takahashi Kobo has been making woodblock prints for approximately 160 years, since the Edo period (1603-1867). Originally working as Surishi (the artisans who colour the woodblocks and print the final image) on Edo woodblock prints, the Takahashi family began publishing prints after their fourth generation took over. "The work of woodblock printing is the root of Japanese printing. From temple school textbooks to ukiyo-e prints and wrapping paper, Japanese printing has always been supported by the technique of woodblock printing," says Yukiko Takahashi, the sixth generation of the Takahashi family.
During the Edo period, ukiyo-e prints served the purpose of informative magazines. For example, in the image of a beautiful woman, fashion trends of the time such as the design of the kimono and furniture, hairstyle, and hand fan, were all depicted in meticulous detail. The artistic value of ukiyo-e is such that it is now recognized globally.
Currently, Takahashi Kobo prints a wide variety of themes using woodblock, from traditional ukiyo-e to modern art. Furthermore, Takahashi produces merchandise sold at museum exhibitions and also holds lectures, demonstrations, and workshops by artisans at museums and schools. Such initiatives, which give new life to the culture of Edo woodblock prints by sharing and experiencing of the history and techniques associated them, have been highly popular and more and more offers have been coming from overseas recently, such as from Paris and London.
However, Takahashi says, "Ukiyo-e prints remain the base of woodblock prints. As we make use of this rich tradition and culture, I would like to use all five senses to capture current trends, embody them, and use them to produce works that suit contemporary lifestyles."