Ryōgokubashi (両国橋) (genre )



The National Diet Library English language site says of this iconic bridge:

A bridge built in 1659 as a result of the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657. The position was slightly downstream from the present location. Originally, the bridge was called Ohashi-bridge, however because the Sumida-gawa River was located at the border of Musashi Province and Shimousa Province, it came to be called Nishu-bashi Bridge (two province bridge). Later, because it spanned both provinces of Musashi and Shimousa, it came to be known as Ryogoku-bashi Bridge (two country bridge). Broad streets were established on both sides of the bridge as fire breaks, and the area was prosperous as number one amusement district. The River Festival in Ryogoku in held on May 28, with fireworks being displayed until August 28 during the cool evening periods, enchanting the people of Edo.


" By far the most familiar site for attractions indeed, a location whose very name evoked the crowds and carnival gaiety of the misemono show was the Ryōgoku Bridge 両国橋. In an effort to encourage the settlement of the marshy lowlands east of the Sumida River 隅田川, and thus relieve some of the urban congestion that had proven so disastrous during the holocaust of 1657, the magistracy commissioned the first major bridge over the lower Sumida, between Nihonbashi on the west and Honjo 本所 to the east. Completed in 1659, the bridge arched on stout piles, over 570 feet long. Memories of the Meireki Fire lingered strongly in the minds of the designers: to the west, at the foot of the bridge, a large open plaza served as a firebreak; a similar smaller plaza fulfilled an identical function on the Honjo side, and framed the Ekōin Temple 回向院, itself a memorial to the victims of the catastrophe on the site of a grisly mass grave.

Though not the longest bridge in Edo the Eitai Bridge of 1698 was 140 feet longer the Ryōgoku Bridge was the hoariest, and perhaps the most traveled of all bridges in the city. A constant procession of functionaries streamed through crowds of citizens and salesmen; a proverb maintained that one never saw fewer than three officials' spears on Ryōgoku Bridge. Crowded at every season of the year, the bridge was particularly congested during the three-month high summer "season," when merrymakers on pleasure launches and at riverside teahouses, or elbow to elbow along the high balustrade of the bridge itself sought to appropriate some coolness and relief from the river breezes. Fireworks, provided by two rival firms at the behest of private customers, had been a feature of the summer festivities since 1733; countless lanterns on shore and over the water extended the gaiety well into the night. The bridge, an engineering marvel no less than a center of entertainment, was a prime tourist attraction of the metropolis: when the Lilliputian protagonist of Ichiba Tsūshō's 市場 通笑 (1739-1812) Mameotoko Edo kenbutsu 豆男江戸見物 (Mr. Tiny tours Edo, 1782) arrives in town after an exhausting ride on a horse's tail, the Ryogoku area is the third stop on his itinerary after the mammoth municipal fish market and Asakusa Kannon. The gaudy bustle over the causeway was no less dear to natives of the city, for whom it served as the epitome of all that rendered Edo unique. Even Edo meisho zue 江戸名所図会 (Illustrated guide to famous sites of Edo, 1829-1836), usually sober and austerely factual in its descriptions, waxes rhapsodic in its description of this focus of urban vitality:

The "cooling" season at this location begins on the twenty-eighth of the Fifth Month and concludes on the twenty-eighth of the Eighth Month. The area is always lively, but it is at its height during the summer months. The shore is crowded with misemono attractions; their advertising banners flap and flutter in the breeze. Lofty mansions and tall towers frame the river along both banks; benches of tea pavilions line the water. Lantern lights sparkle charmingly, reflected in the stream. Cabin boats and open boats crowd the current; moored together, they conceal for a moment the entire flow, and it is no different from dry land. Music of strings, songs, drums, and flutes echoes noisily in the ear-truly, Great Edo at its most glorious!

Quote from: "The Carnival of Edo: Misemono Spectacles From Contemporary Accounts" by Andrew Markus, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Dec., 1985), pp. 507-09.