Moon and Smoke

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: Moon and Smoke
(Tsuki hyakushi: Enchu no tsuki)

signed Yoshitoshi with artist's seal Taiso, carved by Yamamoto, and publisher's date and address seal Meiji jukyunen, nigatsu, -ka; Nihonbashi-ku Muromachi Sanchome 9-banchi, insatsu ken hakkosha Akiyama Buemon (Meiji 19 [1886], February) of Akiyama Buemon of Kokkeido

oban tate-e 13 7/8 by 9 1/2 in., 35.2 by 24.1 cm

This composition, of firemen calmly facing a roaring conflagration, is one of the few designs from the One Hundred Aspects of the Moon series that does not illustrate a specific legend, story, or historical figure. However, the firemen of Edo were legendary heroes themselves. Japanese houses were built primarily of wood and paper, and fires were a constant menace to the populace. Firemen, organized into local troops, were famous for their bravery in fighting fast-moving fires and otherwise infamous for their boisterous behavior on the city streets. If a company of firemen were able to save property, there could be a financial reward for their success. As such, firemen companies (typically comprised of neighborhood tough guys) were very competitive with each other. The prominence of a standard-bearer was crucial in order to lay claim to their daring efforts. In this print, the standard-bearer of one company faces the roaring flames; in the distance the standard-bearer of a different company is visible through the murky smoke.

References:
Keyes 1983, p. 461, no. 478.21
Segi 1985, p. 58, no. 72.3
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, pp. 132-133, no. 54.21 (illus.)
Stevenson 2001, no. 22
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2009, p. 24, no. 2.22
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2012, p. 154, no. 229

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