Night View of Saruwaka-machi

You have a tendency to go askew. When prohibitions are imposed it is more likely that rather than recognizing their essence and accepting them, you would instinctively find a loophole or adapt to those limitations; without stopping altogether. ย 

In 1842, to restrict the hedonistic activities of commerce the Japanese government instituted a series of reforms to curb the thriving entertainment industry. Kabuki theatres had to relocate to Saruwaka-machi district, in the north-eastern part of the city and the performances could only be held between sunrise and sunset. However, it must suffice to say that this plan backfired.

The area not only became a thriving attraction but also an opportunity for countless emerging businesses and restaurants to cater to the theatre-goers. The people sauntered in the streets long after the performances to savour the lingering excitement or patronize the restaurants.

In this depiction the turrets that rise above the row roofs on the right are the shut theatres during the night time, while the restaurants give a warm and welcoming glow in the moonlight.

But this makes you think, surely the events that unfolded werenโ€™t bad? An industry did not break the laws, it simply adapted to them. A solution emerged from the available ideas which transformed this curb into a unique cultural experience available exclusively in a certain vicinity. And the time and efforts involved in indulging in such an experience only added to it’s novelty and made it more cherished for the population that could relish it or planned on doing so.

Iโ€™d love to know your views. Please do leave a comment and until then enjoy this night view of Saruwaka-machi by Hiroshige which is one of my favourite artworks.

4 thoughts on “Night View of Saruwaka-machi

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