Color woodblock print: ōban tate-e triptych, each sheet 15¼ x 10 in. (38.7 x 25.4 cm); circa 1815–18
Signed: Gototei Kunisada ga
Artist’s seal: toshidama in matsukawa-bishi
Censor’s seal: kiwame (approved)
Publisher: Ezakiya Kichibei (Tenjudō)
In the early nineteenth century, approximately seventy thousand Edo citizens were adherents to a popular cult of Fuji worship that practiced prayers and pilgrimages devoted to the sacred mountain, a movement that had been founded by an ascetic named Hasegawa Kakugyō (1541–1646). Known as Fujiko, or children of Fuji, the members of the cult venerated the mountain as a female deity and were encouraged to ascend its slopes in the summer. Since climbing the real Mount Fuji took time and was arduous for children, the aged and infirm, replica Mount Fujis, or Fujizuka, were built in various parts of the city. Here followers who could not make the proper pilgrimage, could still participate in the rituals of the cult and emerge reborn and purified.
In this famous triptych Kunisada depicts a group of city women and their children rushing to escape a sudden summer storm. They are sightseers who have been visiting a Fuji Festival, held on the first day of the sixth month, to celebrate the annual opening of Mount Fuji to pilgrims. On the right, laundresses hurry to gather their washing as a gust of wind catches an awning above them. Black clouds loom above, and a lightning bolt strikes the ground beside them.