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Ningyo-cho Doll Market

Posted by Dave Bull at 8:44 PM, February 28, 2005

Collectors of my Surimono Albums series may remember that I included a design incorporating a number of images from senjafuda, the small 'label' type woodblock prints, and here again I have mined that same source.

The image you see here is from a set of 15 double-size senjafuda entitled Edo Meibutsu (Famous Products of Edo), and depicts a street market in the Ningyo-cho district of the old capital. The design itself does not date from the Edo era, but only from 1928, so we shouldn't take the portrayal of the scene as being exactly literal.

Ningyo-cho was (and still is to some extent) the location of doll and toy manufacturers, and in the weeks and days leading up to the doll festival holiday in early March it must have presented a bustling scene indeed.

The unknown designer of this image has packed quite a lot of activity into such a small space; the main focus is of course on one of the market stalls, with potential customers browsing the dolls and accessories on display, but I particularly enjoy some of the peripheral characters in the scene. Down in the lower left corner we see a young boy carrying a tray, and I think he must be a sushi delivery boy with some shellfish and a bowl of soup; on busy market days I'm sure the stall owners didn't have time to go out for lunch!

A kago is passing by, carried by very well-dressed servants, so we can perhaps assume there is quite an important person inside ...

But I find the character up on the right hand side particularly interesting; don't you think this is supposed to represent a foreigner? Look at the long nose, the goatee, the brown hair ... If I had to guess, I would say this is a Frenchman strolling around the streets of late-era Edo in those years after the country started to open up.

This print may be 'simple', but there are quite a number of printing impressions on it, and I'm happy that it has made it out the door on time! 'See you' again in two weeks!

Monday, February 28, 2005

(Here's the print in context in the Treasure Chest series.)


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