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Famous Sights of Edo (東都名所遊観): Last Month of the Year in Asakusa (極月浅草市)

Identifier: 1845c Kunisada kiyomidzu

You can feel the cold in this snowy scene. The sudden burst of a chilly wind is visible in the flapping of head scarf of the woman on the left, while the woman in the center is trying to secure here.

The little girl on the left is left is carrying what appears to be a clever mask or even bag-like covering in the form of the upper part of the head of Otafuku (お多福). Perhaps the eyes have slits cuts in them so the child can see as she walks along. The little boy on the right holds what looks like a covered bundle of ehon or books - or perhaps it is something else.

At the bottom right of the head scarf of the woman on the left are the kanji characters for 'ichikawa'. Is this some kind of reference to an actor like Ichikawa Danjuro VIII? Possibly. Also, this woman's obi displays a repetition of a gray dragon on a black ground chasing a large blue pearl with yellow licks of flames surrounding it.


During the Edo period a game called fuku-warai (福笑い), a kind of blind man's buff, was played where children, generally, would wear a mask of Otafuku/Okame. The mask would have slits at the eyes, but the children wearing the mask were supposed to have their eyes shut. Another version of this game involved pasting the parts of a face all over a mask in the wrong places. The purpose was to make the participants laugh. They did.

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