Utagawa Hiroshige, 1797–1858
New Year’s Eve Foxfires at the Hackberry Tree in Ōji
From the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1857
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Gift of Louis W. Hill, Jr. P.75.51.384
Cat. no. 272

Most prints in Hiroshige’s One Hundred Views of Edo illustrate actual views, but this scene is imaginary. In Shinto belief, foxes are messengers of the gods and protectors of shrines dedicated to Inari, the god of grain. Ōji Shrine, in what is now the northern section of Tokyo, is one of the most important Inari shrines in Japan. According to legend, foxes from throughout eastern Japan journey there to pay their respects to Inari on New Year’s Eve. They gather at a nearby hackberry tree and don formal clothes for the event. Foxes’ supernatural power enables them to emit the mysterious small flames seen here. White foxes are supposed to be especially old and potent. Hiroshige pictured the foxes beneath the ancient tree, their small fires eerily illuminating their pale bodies. Shades of gray create an evocative atmosphere for the supernatural scene.