Woodblock print

Yoritomo's procession

1840-1850 (made)

Utagawa Sadahide

E.12190-1886 EAS

Woodblock printed triptych by Sadahide of around 1840 depicting a daimyo's procession along the Tokaido highway, Japan's main coastal route from Edo to Kyoto.

Sadahide has represented the procession of a regional lord (daimyo) under the guise of a procession accompanying Lord Yoritomo, the great 12th-century military leader. The procession follows the Tokaido highway, which was Japan’s main coastal route from Edo to Kyoto during the Edo period (1600-1868). Sadahide appears to have set the scene in the bay at Kamakura, the seat of Yoritomo’s military government. The enormous scale of the procession can be judged from the leading figures that disappear into the distance. The Tokugawa shoguns, who in effect ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867, introduced a system whereby all daimyo were required to spend alternate years at Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in attendance on the shogun. This was known in Japanese as ‘sankin kotai’. This system maintained control over the regional daimyo, who were the appointed feudal rulers of Japan. In the Edo period they were either members of the Tokugawa family or had pledged direct allegiance to the Tokugawa shogun. The daimyo was required to maintain residential estates in Edo as well as in their regional domains. A daimyo generally travelled to the capital every other year and returned to his province after a year's service. He travelled with a retinue of 150 to 300 or more. The journeys and the upkeep of a daimyo's Edo and country estates consumed about 70 to 80 percent of his income. The procession of samurai and servants that accompanied daimyo on their journeys was a mark of their status. During the 17th and early 18th centuries the processions of major daimyo numbered thousands of pikemen, mounted and unmounted swordsmen, banner carriers, and other officials with some of their own vassals and servants. Any attempt to actually represent one of these processions could be seen as a criticism of the Tokugawa shoguns, who were obsessed with any possible threat to their power. That is why Sadahide has carefully named his print after a figure from the distant past, although it quite clearly shows an Edo period scene.

Location: In Storage

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