Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Scenes in and around the Capital

Edo period (1615–1868)
17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold, and gold leaf on paper
Image (each): 61 7/16 in. × 11 ft. 6 11/16 in. (156.1 × 352.2 cm) Overall (each): 66 15/16 in. × 12 ft. 3/16 in. (170 × 366.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
Accession Number:
2015.300.106.1, .2
Not on view
Paintings presenting panoramic views of Kyoto and its suburbs are known as Scenes in and around the Capital (Rakuchū rakugaizu). Usually executed on folding screens, these encyclopedic visualizations include the famous scenic spots and important monuments that served as settings for seasonal festivals and other entertainments in Kyoto. They are also awash with depictions of townspeople— men and women from all walks of life—and their customs and costumes, mercantile and leisure activities, and modes of transportation.

This theme reached the height of its popularity in the first half of the seventeenth century. The majority of surviving Kyoto screens, like this pair, belong to a type in which the city is separated into east and west. On the right screen, the eastern half of the city and the summer Gion festival dominate the street activity, while the left screen shows Nijō Castle and the city’s western half.
Paintings with views of Kyoto and its suburbs are known as rakuchū-rakugai zu, a term referring to "inside" the capital city (rakuchū) and "outside" (rakugai). Usually executed on screens, these pictures illustrate the famous scenic spots and important monuments that served as settings for seasonal festivals and entertainments. Such screens, more than seventy of which are still extant, were much admired and in great demand in Kyoto. They were also popular with visitors from out of town, who purchased them as souvenirs of their trips to the capital. In 1582, when a group of Japanese Christian converts traveled to Rome, they took with them a set of rakuchū-rakugai zu by Kano Eitoku (1543– 1590) as a gift to the pope from the warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534 –1582). One of the two earliest extant pairs was a gift from Nobunaga to Lord Uesugi, whose descendants are still in possession of the set.

The origin of rakuchū-rakugai imagery can be traced to an important genre of yamato-e, the distinctly native style of Japanese painting whose basic concept and techniques were perfected in the Late Heian and Kamakura periods.[1] Few examples of these early genre paintings remain, but there are literary and documentary references to two specific types of yamato-e: meisho-e, paintings that depict activities taking place in famous scenic spots around the country, and tsukinami-e, pictures of seasonal events.[2] Because most famous scenic locations came to be associated with special seasonal festivals, the two themes were often combined in a single work. Even during the Muromachi period, when the influence of Chinese culture was profound, interest in meisho-e and tsukinami-e persisted. Zen monks, the champions of Chinese learning and aesthetics, actually composed poems in praise of paintings that depicted these purely Japanese themes.[3] While no screen paintings of this subject have survived from the Muromachi period, many folding fans decorated with meisho-e and tsukinami-e are still extant. Their compositions, and the detailed manner in which they were rendered, eventually served as models for panoramic screen paintings. Rakuchū-rakugai zu thus represent a final synthesis of meisho-e and tsukinami-e.

The formula for such screens was established in the early sixteenth century. In 1506, Tosa Mitsunobu (fl. 1469–1523) painted a single screen showing only views of the inner city. This work was hailed as a novelty.[4] The more common format for rakuchū-rakugai zu, which includes the suburbs as well, was established shortly afterward. The oldest extant screens of this type are a pair dating to the 1520s formerly in the Machida collection and now in the National Museum of Japanese History, Sakura.[5] A pair in the Uesugi collection attributed to Kano Eitoku have been dated to between 1550 and 1570. While Tosa artists undoubtedly followed the example set in 1506 by their ancestor Mitsunobu, most of the later versions were produced by anonymous artists, generally known as machi-eshi (town painters). The screens are encyclopedic visualizations of Kyoto and the lives of its citizens. They depict customs and costumes, performing arts, modes of transportation, commercial activities, and men and women from all walks of life. Rakuchū rakugai zu also generated many types of smaller genre paintings, which flourished during the Edo period. The decline in popularity of rakuchū-rakugai screens in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century coincided with Kyoto's loss of prestige as the center of the nation's cultural, political, and commercial life.

The sixteenth-century screens in the National Museum of Japanese History and the Uesugi collection represent the first stage in the development of the rakuchū-rakugai genre. In both pairs, the city of Kyoto is divided into two sections. The left screen shows views of the uptown district, while the right one depicts the downtown section. To create for the viewer the impression of being in the midst of the city, the screens when unfolded for viewing were placed facing each other, flanking the viewer, rather than side by side. References to the four seasons are also included. In other types of landscape screens, winter is usually represented at the extreme left panel of the left-hand screen. Here, however, winter is seen at the top left of the right screen continuing to the top right-hand corner of the left screen. Because this portion of the composition depicts the northern hills, it is an appropriate place for winter.

The Burke screens and the majority of extant Kyoto screen paintings belong to a second type of rakuchū-rakugai screens. In these the city is separated into east and west, with Abura-kōji Street (running north and south, east of Nijō Castle) as the dividing line. On the right screen, Higashiyama (the eastern hills) is shown at the top and the Gion Festival dominates the street activity. On the left screen are Nijō Castle and the western half of the city, with Kitayama (the northern hills) and Nishiyama (the western hills) in the background.[6]

Brilliant green hills and mountains, colorful houses, temples and shrines, palaces, streets, and human figures emerge from the golden clouds that partially envelop the capital. Avenues and houses are laid out in an orderly pattern. Running horizontally across the right screen-almost at its center-is the broad Kamo River, which divides the city into the metropolitan and suburban districts. In the foreground, to the west of the river and nearly parallel to it, runs a narrow canal, the Takasegawa, which was constructed in 1611. Structures of major importance and famous scenic locations are identified by small labels. Most of the major monuments on the screen at the right were constructed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598), who united the country after a lengthy period of civil strife among various feudal lords. Fushimi Castle, in the top right corner, was demolished in 1622; the Hōkoku mausoleum, built for Hideyoshi in 1599, is to the left; directly below the mausoleum is the Great Buddha Hall of Hōkōji, dedicated by Hideyoshi in 1591.

At the northern end (the viewer's left) is the Imperial Palace, where the lse odori—a popular dance that originated at Ise—is being performed. In the downtown section, the mid-July Gion Festival, the most important summer event in Kyoto, is in progress. A major tourist attraction to this day, the festival originated in the mid-ninth century and has been observed annually since the year 970. Here, merchants and other citizens have deserted their shops and homes to watch the procession, with its colorful floats and theatrical performances, as it meanders through the streets and avenues.

Among the better-known Buddhist monuments in the suburbs on the eastern hills are three temples. In the south (at the right) are Tōfukuji, Sanjūsangendō, and the Great Buddha Hall of Hōkōji. In front of Hōkōji stands an unusual monument, also related to Hideyoshi: an earthen mound surmounted by a stone stupa, identified by its label as the Mimizuka (Ear Burial Mound). This structure was built for the interment of the ears and noses of enemy soldiers, which were brought back to Japan from Korea by Hideyoshi's troops. The stepped pyramid to the left, on the western (near) bank of the Kamo River, contained the remains of some thirty concubines kept by the amorous Hidetsugu, the adopted son of Hideyoshi. To pay for his life of dissipation, Hidetsugu was ordered by Hideyoshi to commit suicide in 1595; the members of his household followed suit.

In the eastern hills (at the top of the screen), pinkish white cherry blossoms dot the hilltops and valleys: spring is depicted in the suburbs, though a summer festival is in progress in the city proper. Major structures here include Kiyomizudera, a temple easily identified by its halls raised on stilts, the Yasaka Shrine with its beautiful pagoda, and Chion'in, another famous temple. On the eastern bank of the Kamo River, in the Gojō area, Okichi Kabuki, performed by young male dancers attracts a crowd of spectators. (Begun in 1629, it was banned in 1652 as the young males were thought to encourage prostitution; they were replaced by older men.) Facing this, in the Shijō district, is a Nō theater.

The left screen is dominated by the imposing structure of Nijō Castle, completed in 1603 to serve as the temporary residence of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (r. 1603–5). The street in front of the castle is the site of some unusual security measures: roadblocks made of cloth curtains have been set up at intervals around the moat. An ox-drawn carriage moving toward the viewer's right has just emerged from the main gate of the castle. The label pasted above the carriage identifies the procession as that of a visiting member of the Tokugawa clan, on its way to the Imperial Palace. The vehicle probably carries Hidetada (r. 1605–23), the second Tokugawa shogun, who made an official visit to the Imperial Palace shortly after the ascension of Emperor Go-Mizunoo in 1611. Hidetada was accompanied on this occasion by three younger brothers, who followed in three palanquins behind him.[7] Nijō Castle is depicted as it looked prior to the extensive renovation of 1626. (A good example of a post-1626 representation of the castle can be found on a screen in the Brooklyn Museum of Art.)[8] Across from the castle, to the right, is the residence of Itakura Katsushige, who served as Kyoto's first governor, from 1601 to 1619.[9]

In the suburbs, beginning in the south (to the viewer's left) and moving northward, we come to the slender five-storied pagoda of Tōji, which marks the southern boundary of the city. The group of farmhouse-like structures with thatched roofs immediately above may reflect the original appearance of the famous Katsura Villa, before it was rebuilt in the 1620s as the elegant estate that still stands today. Across the Ōi River, in the mountainous area, is Kokūzō temple. At the foot of the steep approach to the compound an e-toki (picture explainer) is in the middle of delivering a lecture for which she has set up a large hanging scroll to illustrate a Buddhist story. Other famous monuments in the western hills include the temples of Tenryūji, Kinkakuji, and Daitokuji. A major attraction in the western suburbs is a large Kabuki theater adjacent to the Kitano Shrine. A crowd has gathered in front of the building, and within the walled enclosure a play, accompanied by a small orchestra, is being performed. The inscribed cartouche identifies this as the Okuni Kabuki—forerunner of the modern Kabuki drama—which made its first appearance near the Kitano Shrine in or before 1603. In the western and northern hills, blazing red maple leaves signal the arrival of autumn. Incongruously, the famous horse race at the Kamikamo Shrine is shown at the extreme right of the first panel. Introduced in 678, this festival is customarily held in May.

The presence of the Okichi Kabuki allows us to date the screens to about 1629. They were probably painted in a shop that produced ready-made pictures. Stylistically, several landscape details suggest that the artist may have been trained in the Kano school. Prominent shun (wrinkles), for example, were used to delineate the surface texture of rocks, and strong ink outlines form sharp angles to give the impression of roughness.

[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]

[1] On the evolution of this theme, see Kyoto National Museum 1966; Tsuji Nobuo 1976; and McKelway 1997.
[2] Soper 1942, pp. 351–79; K. Toda 1959, pp. 153–66; and Akiyama Terukazu 1964.
[3] See, for example, Kanrin koroshū, a collection of poems and essays by Keijo Shūrin (1440–1518), in Kamimura Kankō 1936, vol. 4.
[4] Sanjōnishi Sanetaka 1979, in the entry for the twenty-second day, twelfth month, third year of the Eishō era (1506).
[5] Takeda Tsuneo 1978a, pp. 13–18.
[6] For a detailed description, see McKelway 1997, pp. 48–57.
[7] Ibid., p. 53.
[8] Murase 1971, p. 117.
[9] McKelway 1997, p. 55.
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," November 7, 1975–January 4, 1976.

Seattle Art Museum. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," March 10, 1977–May 1, 1977.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," June 1, 1977–July 17, 1977.

Orlando. Loch Haven Art Center. "Urban Beauties and Rural Charms," January 8, 1980–February 10, 1980.

New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "The Spirit of Place: Japanese Paintings and Prints from the 16th through 19th Centuries," March 1, 1984–May 6, 1984.

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. "Die Kunst des Alten Japan: Meisterwerke aus der Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," September 16, 1990–November 18, 1990.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Seasonal Pleasures in Japanese Art, Part II," May 1, 1996–September 8, 1996.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30, 2000–June 25, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Turning Point: Oribe and the Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan," October 21, 2003–January 11, 2004.

Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," July 5, 2005–August 19, 2005.

Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 4, 2005–December 11, 2005.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," January 24, 2006–March 5, 2006.

Miho Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 15, 2006–June 11, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–January 22, 2017.

Narazaki Muneshige. “Kyō meisho fūzoku zu byōbu ni tsuite” (On a folding-screen picture of the famous places and the manners and customs of Kyoto). Kokka, no. 868 (July 1964): pp.11–17.

Shimada Shūjirō, ed. Zaigai hihō: Ōbei shūzō Nihon kaiga shūsei (Japanese paintings in Western collections) vol. 2, Shōbyōga, Rinpa, bunjinga (Screen paintings, rinpa, and literati painting), Tokyo: Gakushū Kenkyūsha, 1969, no. 22.

Murase, Miyeko. Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975, cat. no. 45.

Takeda Tsuneo, ed. Fūzokuga: Rakuchū-rakugai (Genre painting: Scenes in and around the capital). Nihon byōbu-e shūsei, 11. Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1978, nos. 88, 89.

Murase, Miyeko. Urban Beauties and Rural Charms: Japanese Art from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection. Exh. cat. Orlando, Fla.: Loch Haven Art Center, 1980, cat. no. 21.

Cunningham, Louisa. The Spirit of Place: Japanese Paintings and Prints of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1984, cat. no. 4.

Avitabile, Gunhild, ed. Die Kunst des alten Japan: Meisterwerke aus der Mary and Jackson Burke Collection, New York. Exh. cat. Frankfurt: Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 1990, cat. no. 49.

Ruch, Barbara. Mō hitotsu no chūseizō: Bikuni, otogizōshi, raise (Another perspective on medieval Japan: Itinerant nuns, short prose narratives, and the afterlife). Kyoto: Shibunkaku, 1991.

McKelway, Matthew P. “The Partisan View: Rakuchū-rakugai screens in the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection.” Orientations 28, no. 2 (February 1997): pp. 48–57.

Murase, Miyeko. Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, cat. no. 139.

Kimbrough, R. Keller. “Voices from the Feminine Margin: Izumi Shikibu and the Nuns of Kumano and Seiganji.” Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 12, no. 23: p. 69 (detail).

Murase, Miyeko, ed. Turning Point: Oribe and the Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003, cat. no. 118.

Tsuji Nobuo et al. Nyūyōku Bāku korekushon-ten: Nihon no bi sanzennen no kagayaki / Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu; Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; and Miho Museum, Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture. [Tokyo]: Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 2005, cat. no. 78.

Ishikawa Tomohiko. “Kumano shinkō to bijutsu” (Kumano cult and art). In Hayashi Masahiko 2007, p. 9 (detail).

Kimbrough, R. Keller. Preachers, Poets, Women, and the Way: Izumi Shikibu and the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Japan. Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, 62. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, p. 169, fig. 23.
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