The Digital On Edo ezu

A Digital Project by Prof. Michael Kinski and the Arts Research Center of the Ritsumeikan University.

Technical Advisors: Leo Born and Koray Birenheide

The Digital On Edo ezu 御江戸絵図 was a research project involving the On Edo ezu of the ARC digital archives. Bachelor and master students of the Goethe University Japanology were to locate an assorted set of famous places on the map and attach brief articles and woodblockprints created by Utagawa Hiroshige from the ARC digital archives to these points on the map using DemiScript software. Beginning in 2017, DemiScript was developed under the auspices of Prof. Kinski to facilitate the transcription and annotation of Edo period woodblock prints with digitally enhanced methods.

About the On Edo ezu

The On Edo ezu 御江戸絵図 or Honorable Illustrated Map of Edo (revised edition of the Tenpô era, 1831 to 1845) bears the following explanation on its left or – “southern” – fringe:

This Honorable Illustrated Map of Edo was newly made, and although it is a conventional map we have dared to minutely correct it – this concerns the honorable [lordly] mansions districts, the ward names and [other] area names of course, and goes as far as the shrines, Buddhist temples, the famous locations and historical sites; and we printed it on the present occasion by adjusting the presentation on a scale where one bu [c. three cm] equals thirty five ken [c. 64 m]. Although [we] endeavor to take stock [of changes] on a daily basis and adjust [the map] monthly, by chance discrepancies might occur. Therefore, [we] would like to kindly prevail [on you] to let the publisher know [about these]. [We] then speedily will bestir [ourselves] to recarve the names.

The On Edo ezu project used this map as a foundation to localize the famous places and scenic spots shown on a number of colored woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige at nearly the same time. All of the sites chosen by Hiroshige could be identified on the map, and it is easy to imagine that the Edo period user of this map might have consulted it to find his way to these places.

It is of further interest that most of the places highlighted by the artist could be found – roughly speaking – on the fringes of the central area of Edo with a majority of them on the eastern side along the Sumida river and near to the residential districts of common townspeople rather than members of the samurai strata.

Descriptions for these sites and accompanying woodblock prints can be found by clicking on them. A slider on the right will then open and offer specific information on the locations themselves, their history up to the present as well as on Hiroshige’s depiction of them. For use of this resource refer to the guidelines below.

About Utagawa Hiroshige

Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川広重 was born Andō Hiroshige 安藤広重 in 1797. He is considered one of the most eminent ukiyo-e 浮世絵 (woodblock print) artists of Japan. We chose two series of prints for our project, Shinsen Edo meisho 新撰江戸名所 ("Newly compiled Famous Spots of Edo", 1840) and and Edo meisho 江戸名所 ("Famous Spots of Edo", around 1850), due to their spatial and temporal overlap with our main map, the On Edo ezu 御江戸絵図 (Honorable Map of Edo, 1830–43). As their titles suggest, the series depict famous spots of Edo and provide contemporary views on a variety of places in Edo. We hypothesize that their depictions likely served to inform the visual experience of Edo citizens when interacting with contemporary maps, making the (colored) woodblock prints a viable contender of a resource to be integrated with the digitized map.

White Overlay Slider:
Map Rotation Slider: