Japan Art and Hiroshige: Art, Sumida River, and Shintaro Ishihara

Japan Art and Hiroshige: Art, Sumida Riverand Shintaro Ishihara

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) is a famous Japanese artist. In this article, the focus is on Hiroshige’s depictions of the Sumida River in Tokyo.

The Sumida River was especially neglected in the post-war period during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Accordingly, the emphasis was on rapid economic growth and endless urbanization: with many companies exploiting the river concerning pollution.

The former Tokyo Governor, Shintaro Ishihara (1932-2022), might seem like a strange link with Hiroshige. However, under his leadership, Tokyo became an economic powerhouse that broke the back of indebtedness. 

Accordingly, the link is that the art depicted by Hiroshige can once more be imagined because Ishihara focused on environmental and sound economic policies. Yes, not all was perfect – Ishihara was berated over the destruction of forest areas concerning Minamiyama. However, overall, Ishihara focused on cleaning up Tokyo’s air pollution; the regeneration of the Sumida River (to boost the environment and nature); and developing the neglected Odaiba area to benefit business, tourism, lifestyle, and the environment for Tokyoites to enjoy.

Hiroshige’s art of the Sumida River during his lifetime was becoming an illusion in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Of course, the river was also neglected before this period – but the pace of environmental devastation was gathering. 

In these stunning art pieces by Hiroshige, the Sumida River is alive concerning nature and people enjoying the environment provided by this river. Accordingly, Ishihara enables people to reconnect with Hiroshige’s art of the Sumida River because he laid the foundations for the regeneration of the Sumida River basin – which connects approximately 3 million people in the immediate environs.

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