Kawase Hasui, Sakurada Gate

Kawase Hasui, 1883-1957

Twenty Views of Tokyo: Sakurada Gate
(Tokyo Nijukkei: Sakuradamon)

signed Hasui with artist's seal Kawase, the series title cartouche on the left margin, Tokyo nijukei, followed by the print title, Sakuradamon, and dated below Showa sannen saku (made in Showa 3 [1928]), and publisher's (Hotei 'B') seal at right, Hanken shoyu Watanabe Shozaburo (Copyright ownership Watanabe Shozaburo), ca. 1928

dai oban yoko-e 10 1/8 by 15 1/4 in., 25.8 by 38.6 cm

Built in 1636, the Sakurada Gate was part of the original Edo Castle grounds before becoming the Imperial Palace grounds in 1868. It is one of the few structures to survive subsequent fires and various rebuilding projects during the Meiji restoration. Although severely damaged, it withstood the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and the Allied bombing during the Second World War which destroyed most of the Imperial Palace. As a steadfast gateway to access the grounds, the Sakuradamon is a symbol of protection of the Imperial legacy made poignant due to various incidents that took place at gate in the early modern era. It was the site of a notorious assassination of the Chief Minister Li Naosuke (1815-1860) by seventeen ronin samurai who opposed Naosuke's role in negotiating treaties with the United States and other Western countries. The event became known as the Sakuradamon-gai no Hen (the Sakuradamon Incident). In 1932 it was the site of a failed assassination attempt on Emperor Hirohito; and in 1936 a group of military officers initiated a failed coup that lasted four days and resulted in the murder of several senior statesmen- the event is recorded by photographs of armed soldiers in the snow at the gate.

This print from 1928 shows the gate restored after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Hasui manages to make the quiet, low-lying structure dramatic and moody by depicting it on a moonless night in deep shades of blue with a reflection of the building in the moat. A single small light from beyond the wall reflects in a broken line across the surface of the water.

References:
Kendall H. Brown, Kawase Hasui: The complete woodblock prints, 2003, p. 361, no. 156
James Ulak et al., Tokyo: The Imperial Capital, 2003, p. 75

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