Famous work by the artist Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川歌麿) depicting a woman in a loose dress taking care of her oral hygiene before starting her work shift in a kashimise (河岸見世), one of the worst pleasure houses in the Shin Yoshiwara (新吉原) district of Edo (江戸). The kashimise were in fact built close to a river or, better, an artificial canal designed with the dual function of transporting the waste of the neighborhood and discouraging attempts to escape. The hygienic condition was rather degraded and this is underlined by the fact that the woman wears a nioibukuro (匂い袋) small bag around her neck, to cover up bad smells with a scented essence.
The woodblock print of vertical large oban (大判) format, originally printed around 1794-95 by the publisher Iseya Magobei (伊勢屋孫兵衛), is entitled “On the River Bank” (川岸) and is taken from the series “Five Shades of Ink in the Northern Quarter” (北国五色墨).
The print on Japanese washi paper (和紙) is presented here in a fine 1977 edition made, as we read in the seal on the back, by the publisher Takamizawa Tadao (高見澤忠雄), by the engraver Kikuta Kojiro (菊田幸次郎) and by the printer Sato Kanjiro (佐藤勘次郎) and, despite the right patina of time, is in very good general condition.