Ferry Boat (Yakata-bune), Sumida River, Tokyo, c. 1911



1910sBridges & SpansGeisha/Maiko/Onnanoko
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Sumida ferry boat, c. 1911.

Geisha are carried across the Sumida River aboard a yakata-bune, a canopied boat that ferried passengers across the river (also called a chochin-bune, lantern boat). In the distance is Shin-o-hashi [new great bridge], an steel truss span erected in 1911 across the Sumida that replaced a Edo era wooden span last constructed in 1885.

“In her memoir the Sarashima Lady makes reference to a still older literary appearance, in Ise monogatari (Tales of Ise), a series of romantic episodes built around the verse of the legendary poet Ariwara no Narihira. In this story, a group of courtiers from the capital are reminded of their loved ones by the appearance of white sea birds as they are crossing the Sumida River on board a ferry. The story later became a sort of pictorial cliché, to the point where no mention of the river and its banks along this stretch would be complete without a reference.”

Japanese Capitals in Historical Perspective: Place, Power and Memory in Kyoto, Edo and Tokyo, edited by Nicolas Fieve & Paul Waley, 2003

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