Pictures of Manners and Customs

In the Edo period, the pastimes of the common people could not be complete without the special customs and observances associated with the changing seasons, such as visits to shrines and temples, flower viewing, collecting fireflies, collecting autumn leaves, or snow viewing. Ukiyoe masters often took these as their subjects, and produced works that give the viewer a tremendous sense of immediacy, a feeling that he or she is right there participating in the scene. Such themes became especially popular after the advent of multicolored nishiki-e, and they are especially prominent in the works of Harunobu. The artists Katsukawa Shuncho (1726-1793) and Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) developed such themes in two-part and three-part works with such names as "Collecting Maples Leaves at the Kaianji," "Flower Viewing at Asukayama," "A Summer Boat Excursion Under Azuma Bridge," and "Viewing the Snow at Matsuchiyama." In the case of Torii Kiyonaga's work titled Kodakara gosechi asobi (A Treasure of Children and their Holiday Entertainments), the focus is on the life and customs of children, with depictions of children's entertainments during such festive times as the New Year's holidays, the Girls Festival in March, the Boys Festival in May, and Tanabata in July.