Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Ōtaya Takichi
(Marks 423 - seal 21-245)
Censor's seal: aratame
Date seal: 4/1856
Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;
Crossing the Ōi river is a theme which has been addressed by numerous Japanese woodblock print artists including Toyokuni I, Eizan, Hiroshige I and II, Yoshiiku, Yoshitora, Yoshitsuya and here Toyokuni III.
In Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology by Hiroaki Sato there is a section on Arii Shokyū (1714-81) in which she describes her crossing of the Ōi.
We passed the Kiku River [on the eighteenth] and arrived at the Ōi River. The water had risen because of the recent rain and ferrying had been suspended, resuming just today, we were told, to our relief. So we asked to be ferried. They put us on an oddly made board, and many people together carried it down into the river. Waves splashed over their shoulders. It was dangerous and terrifying, and I didn't feel I was alive. I kept my eyes closed, mumbling prayers, until the crossing was over. As if awakened from a dream, I turned to look. The place we had left behind was in the distance, and the people crossing looked like tiny water birds adrift in the waves.
In a footnote to this passage is a great explanation. "The Tokugawa government infamously maintained a ban on the construction of bridges over major rivers for purposes of defense. At such places “river-crossing men" (kawagoshi ninsoku [川越し人足]) were stationed to carry travelers and their luggage, either on their shoulders or on carrying boards. The Ōi River was regarded as the most difficult spot to cross along Japan's main artery at the time, the Tōkaidō Road."