Okitsu


Artist
Tamenobu Fujikawa (Japanese, active circa 1910-1920)
Date
1918
Medium
Woodblock print
Dimensions
Sheet : 9 9/16 x 14 in. (24.29 x 35.56 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
Object Number
2014.13.19

Label
The Okitsu River was one of several unbridged rivers along the Tōkaidō. In some instances, the absence of bridges was because the rivers were prone to floods that made bridge construction too difficult. In other instances, the absence of bridges was part of a Tokugawa government defense strategy to hinder the free movement of rebel armies and foreign invaders. If an unbridged river was not deep enough for ferry boats, travelers could cross the river for free by themselves on foot or they could be carried across for a fee by porters on the porters’ backs, in sedan chairs or on rafts. Here we see a porter preparing to pick up Kita for a trip across the river, but the porter has grabbed Kita the wrong way so that he will be upside down on the porter’s back, with his head by the porter’s rear end. The large man waiting to cross the river in the sedan chair next to them is a sumo wrestler. In the 18th and 19th centuries (and still today), successful sumo wrestlers were regarded as celebrities in Japan, so to have him witness Kita’s predicament with the porter makes it even more humiliating.

Object Type
Print