Most of us who study Japanese history wish that we could somehow go back and experience daily life in our respective periods of interests. Until my time machine is built and ready this is of course impossible. In the meantime, there are some other wonderful ways to get a visual glimpse of history. One obvious way is to look at contemporary sources. I was reading a book the other day where I stumbled upon such a source, namely a scroll named Kidai Shōran (熈代勝覧). I had never seen or heard about this scroll before, so I quickly made a Google search to see if I could find some pictures. I was glad to see that someone had actually made a panorama video of the entire scroll and made it available on YouTube. If you don't have the patience to sit through the entire video can look at a picture of it. Story continued below the video.

The scroll itself is actually a bit taller than what you see in the video, but the person who made it has zoomed in to better reveal the details in the street. The scroll is more than 12 meters long and depicts a ca 760m long stretch of road between Nihonbashi and Kanda Imagawabashi in Edo (that is present day Tokyo, as if you didn't already know) in the year 1805. The scroll shows 88 houses and stores, 1671 people (1439 men, 200 women and 32 kids), 20 dogs, 13 horses, 4 cows, 1 monkey and 2 falcons. The fact that it shows the street in 1805 is quite interesting, because the buildings shown were destroyed the year after in a great fire.
The scroll was actually discovered not so long ago; in 1999 it was found stowed away in the Museum of East Asian Art in Berlin. A label on the scroll says 「熈代勝覧 天」. 天 (heaven) means that the scroll is number one in a set of three scrolls (天、地、人), but unfortunately only this one was found. It is a rather comforting thought, however, that new sources keep getting dug up from deep inside archives around the world.



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