• Woman carrying umbrellas and a child running during a <i>Sudden shower at the Mimeguri Shrine</i> (三囲の夕立)
Woman carrying umbrellas and a child running during a <i>Sudden shower at the Mimeguri Shrine</i> (三囲の夕立)
Woman carrying umbrellas and a child running during a <i>Sudden shower at the Mimeguri Shrine</i> (三囲の夕立)

Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)

Woman carrying umbrellas and a child running during a Sudden shower at the Mimeguri Shrine (三囲の夕立)


1844 – 1845
10 in x 15 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print
Signed: Kōchōrō Kunisada ga
Publisher: Izumiya Ichibei (Marks 180 - seal 21-235)
Ritsumeikan - right panel in black and white
Ritsumeikan - center panel in black and white
Ritsumeikan - left panel in black and white
Hagi Uragami Museum of Art - right panel
From Mimeguri (三囲) to the Washington Monument at Vegder's Blog
The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, the University of Indiana
Lyon Collection - the full triptych The theme of 'A Sudden Shower at the Mimeguri Shrine' had already been dealt with by Kiyonaga in a triptych in 1787. In that version there are thunder, i.e., storm demons in the sky.

In the Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1916 it states: "Men and women are seeking shelter in a gateway. Above, in the clouds, the demons of a thunder-storm are conferring over a haiku (a short poem in seventeen syllables) composed by the Japanese poet, Kikkaku (1661-1707).

The reference is to a tradition that on the 28th of June, in the year 1693 Kikkaku went with his disciples to the Mimeguri Inari Shrine, at Mukojima, Tokyo, where, to his surprise, he encountered a crowd of highly excited farmers. Upon inquiry he learned that they had been praying for rain to terminate the long drought which threatened their crops with ruin, and in response to suggestions from his companions, coupled with the persistent appeals of the farmers, - who, because of his bald head, mistook him for a Buddhist priest, - he composed the following haiku, which he recited with great earnestness before the altar:
'If thou art indeed the God who watched over farms, send forth, I pray, thy showers!'
To the great delight of all this prayer was instantly answered, and the nourishing rain descended in torrents. The Japanese expression meaning 'watch over,' as used in the foregoing poem, is mimeguri, a homonym of the name of the Shrine. Such plays upon words are a marked characteristic of Japanese poetry."

A similar composition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by Kiyonaga, a triptych, too, shows elegant women caught in a downpour.In that triptych is a young woman "Under an umbrella emblazoned with a shop name... [She] approaches bearing extra umbrellas and a pair of high geta (clogs), presumably for those stranded beneath the gate. Lending the image a slightly erotic overtone, one woman clutches her unfurling obi and another fights to keep her robe closed while protecting her hair with a cloth that she holds in her teeth. In the distance, others can be seen running from the downpour. The fluttering hems of the women's robes, the bowed branches of the overhanging tree, and the bent rice plants vividly convey a sense of the gusting wind and driving rain." Quoted from: Worldly Pleasures, Earthly Delights: Japanese Prints from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts p. 116.

Clearly Kunisada's work here - an homage? - is modeled on Kiyonaga's masterpiece right down to the fluttering garments, the wind-bent pines and the people in the background trying desperately to get out of the storm. [Use the zooming tool on this page and you will see them clearly. One of them has even lost his straw hat to a sudden gust. It is visible flying freely through the air toward the right edge of the print.]

Another interesting touch is the 'double toshidama' used as a design element on the umbrella the woman is carrying and the 'single toshidama' cartouche enclosing the title of this piece: A Sudden Shower at Mimeguri Shrine". Anyone familiar with the work of the Utagawa school, which includes Kunisada, knows that various forms of the toshidama were used as their artists' crests.

The coloration of this print from the Lyon Collection is near perfect, near mint - nearly like the day it was first sold. Even the shibori dyed fabric of the woman's lower robe looks like it was cut by a cloth merchant from a fresh bolt of material and sewn recently into a wearable garment. You can almost feel its soft, pliant texture.

Kunisada may have produced an entire series of seasonal 'Mimeguri' Shrine prints. There is another triptych by him in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston showing elegant women in that location, but this time they are in the snow. The publisher is different, but that is not unusual in such cases.


This umbrella is decorated with a double toshidama, an Utagawa crest, and what appears to be the kanji for 'uta' (歌) and 'gawa' (川).


The Mimeguri Shrine is located on the left bank of the Sumida River, across from the Asakusa district. This shrine was dedicated to 2 of the 7 propitious gods: Ebisu and Daikoku. Therefore they were destinations for people who were praying for prosperity.

Many other artists, besides Kunisada, did prints which dealt with the area close to and centered on the Mimeguri area. Many Edo travelers stopped there to dine at favorite restaurants or rest at local teahouses while on their way to the Yoshiwara.


Other artists who produced prints referencing Mimeguri or its district include Harunobu, Buncho, Kiyonaga, Masayoshi, Toyoharu, Toyohiro, Utamaro, Choki, Eishi, Shunman, Toyokuni I, Shuntei, Kuniyasu, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, Eisen, Shunko, Hiroshige, Hiroshige II, Hiroshige III, Ikkei, Yoshiiku and Kiyochika.


Illustrated in a small black and white reproductions in the Illustrated Catalogues of Tokyo National Museum: Ukiyo-e Prints (3), #2902.

beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)
boshi-e (母子絵) (genre)
mitate-e (見立て絵) (genre)
Izumiya Ichibei (和泉屋市兵衛) (publisher)