With summer here and the days warming up to the extent that I want to rush out and jump in a lake to cool down, my thoughts have turned to 18th century boating parties on the Sumida River in Edo (now Tokyo). A multitude of prints were produced depicting men, women and children enjoying sunny summer days travelling up and down the Sumida River in pleasure barges, drinking sake, listening to musicians play the shamisen, and even enjoying a meal.
The small boats in the left-hand sheet of the above triptych, by Eishôsai Chôki, are called chokibune. These small ferry boats travelled along the river, transporting people and goods at speed. The medium-size boat in the foreground on the right is a yanebune, which would have provided leisurely cruises along the river. The large boat in the background, with lanterns strung up along its roof, is a yakatabune, in which passengers could have dinner and enjoy some musical entertainment.
The above triptych, by Kitagawa Utamaro, shows young women and children strolling along the bank of the Sumida River on a summer evening. In the background we see Ryôgoku Bridge and the numerous small ferries and pleasure barges making their way along the river. During the warm months, there were firework displays along the river in the evening, and we can see the spiralling crimson light of fireworks being set off from the large barge in the centre sheet of the above design.
The above print by Andô Hiroshige shows Fireworks at Ryôgoku, from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. A yakatabuneis making its way along the river with its hanging lanterns alight, and numerous barges and small ferries are floating along in the water, illuminated by the multitude of sparkling lights in the night sky.
The above design is also by Hiroshige, from the series Famous Places in Edo, and shows fireworks going off above the Sumida River, with sightseers pausing on the bridge in the foreground on the left to watch the fronds of salmon pink light reaching out across the night sky like the tentacles of a giant octopus.
Causes Gina Collia-Suzuki Supports
The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK