Ando Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Cherry-Blossoms at Night at Nakanocho in the Yoshiwara, from Famous Places of the Eastern Capital, c.1835, woodblock print, 8 ¾ x 3 5/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
A full moon shines down on a crowd of people pressing toward the gateway to Yoshiwara, Edo’s (Tokyo) entertainment district. In this confined area with walls, gates, and guards, geisha and other entertainers provide singing, dancing, dining, drinking, and other pleasures to noblemen, samurai, and townspeople. The crowd includes men and women elaborately dressed for an evening in the center of Edo’s nightlife. A row of cherry trees in full bloom stands along the road, the blossoms glowing in the moonlight. Cherry blossoms, which appear suddenly and fall quickly, have long been regarded in Japan as a symbol of fleeting beauty. Their prominence in this print may imply the alluring but transitory nature of the delights available in the “floating world” beyond these gates.