Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 / Toyokuni III 三代歌川豊国 (1786–1865)
From the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō with Beauties
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1848
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of Dr. & Mrs. C. M. Cooke, 1935

In the foreground, a Buddhist nun turns her head to see a daimyō procession, the hats and palanquins of its members barely visible beyond the nearby grove of pines. In his decision to portray a nun alongside government officials, Kunisada may be making reference to a print by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) that also depicts Shirasuka station and on which the following legend is inscribed:

Onnaya is on the eastern edge of Shirasuka. Long ago it was a station for travelers, and one can still find there the remains of the inn where Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147–1199), the founder and first ruler of the Kamakura shogunate, stayed in the first year of the Kenkyū era (1190). At that time, prostitutes came to visit from distant sections of Hashimoto, and for that reason, the area they come from is called Onnaya (literally, “Valley of Women”). At that time, there was a woman who the minister of the right was particularly interested in, and after Yoritomo passed away, she became a nun and took a vow of chastity. She took the name of Myōshō and erected a temple, where she lived for a long time. This temple is now known as Satsukidera and is located in Hashimoto (modern-day Kosai, Shizuoka Prefecture).

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