Sugoroku Library

"Shunkyo Harimaze Sugoroku" (Sugoroku with Pasted Pictures of Spring Appreciation) Bunkyo period of Edo era
Producer Hiroshige II / size (cm) 74v x 74w

A well known piece made by Hiroshige II. "Nihon E-sugoroku Shusei" (A Collection of Picture Sugoroku) edited and written by Takahashi Junji, introduces it as follows;

------This sugoroku also shows Hiroshige's talent as an idea hitter.
The sugoroku consists of pictures pasted on a folding screen used in a reception room in the New Year. No person is seen in the scene, but there are objects like a fire tub and a writing desk. No wonder when a nightingale would whisper her song in the scene.
A letter box contains ceremonial gifts from New Year visitors. The air in the room is bright and gorgeous enough although no person is seen. A notebook is opened on the desk maybe to write down the name of the guests, and the phrase on the note itself a Furidashi (start) which indicates where to jump. It's a so smart setting as Hiroshige likes.

Pictures on folding fans are the typical things in New Year such as fresh water, visitors, shepherd's purse, birds catcher, Sake for New Year, plum flower, pine trees at the gate, Oi-hane, lottery, adonis, monkey circus, comic dialogue and etc. with a Haiku along each. An example of monkey play, "Monkey circus, the whip has dust on it because of no sweeping". There used to be a custom not to sweep during the New Year while hating the sweeping out of luck. For plum flower, "There fall plum flowers, on the swept up snow", and for lottery, "Kids are asking a lucky direction of the year, to win the desirables on lottery". The lottery in those days was made in paper strings twisted tight like wire on which the name of premiums were written in. Kids drew and stretch them facing a lucky direction in order to win favorable premiums.

The Haiku in Agari (goal) fan illustrated with flying red head cranes reads, "Everyone shows relaxing face in the first sunrise". We cannot feel the atmosphere like this now any more while tap water is provided everywhere even in country side instead of drawing from the pond, no custom of comic dialogue nor monkey play in the New Year.
Although Hiroshige seems to have drawn this picture in a very relaxing style, you can find his decent touch in the decoration of screen, in the paint of fire tub or in fine gilt work on the screen. ...... A gorgeous and elegant work which proves the height of professional technique of Edo Ukiyo-e.

*Click the part you want to see in larger picture.

whole picture

monkey circus and plum

start(letter case / notes)

goal(new year's sunrise and crane)