TEA HOUSE AT KUSATSU (Utagawa Hiroshige)

N.1 ukiyo-e woodblock print
Period: 1840-42
Condition: fair
Size: 22 x 16,5 cm



The number of happy days / is increasing and / traveling to Kusatsu / in the spring rain / the grass sprouts on the sides of the road (たのしみの / 日数かさねて / 春雨に / めぐむ草津の / 旅の道芝). The words of the kyoka (狂歌) poem by Shibaguchiya Okazumi (芝口屋丘住), written in the lower left, are partly a pun on the name of the place depicted in this work, that is the Kusatsu station (草津宿), where many travelers flock to a tea house (茶屋) on whose signs we read that the local specialty is served: the traditional confection ubagamochi (姥が餅).

This precious woodblock print, made between 1840 and 1842 by the artist Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重), is the fifty-third panel of the “Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road” (東海道五拾三次), a series also known as the “Kyoka Tokaido” (狂歌入東海道) due to the presence, precisely, of poetic compositions combined with the stations of the famous route that connected Edo (江戸) or today’s Tokyo (東京), the seat of the shogun, with the imperial capital Kyoto (京都).

The print on Japanese washi paper (和紙), produced by the publisher Sanoya Kihei (佐野屋喜兵衛), owner of Kikakudo (喜鶴堂), despite the right signs of aging and a small tear in the central part of the lower margin, is in fair condition.