Suzuki Harunobu, 1724/25-70
Fishing near Mimeguri Shrine on the Sumida River, ca. 1767
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.81
Cat. no. 42

This print appears to show well-dressed young people fishing and having fun. Across the river, on the far bank, the distinctive shrine gateway and nearby rice paddies suggest a setting in the vicinity of Mimeguri Shrine, a popular area for outings on the Sumida River. However, Harunobu may have intended a subtle allusion to a poem by Yamanoue no Okura (660–ca. 733) from the 8th-century Manyōshñ, Japan’s oldest poetry anthology. The poem mentions a local legend about Empress Jingñ, a mythical heroine said to have led a military campaign against Korea in the year 200. Returning from Korea, she stopped at the mouth of the Matsura River, in today’s Saga Prefecture, and caught sweetfish using a thread pulled from her dress, with a piece of rice as bait. The central figure in Harunobu’s composition may represent Empress Jingñ, but as is typical of his playful conflations, she is dressed as a stylish contemporary woman.