Visit to a Shrine at the Hour of the Ox (Ushi no toki mairi)

Suzuki Harunobu Japanese

Not on view

In her hands the woman carries nails and a hammer to drive them into a tree to set a curse. Known as the ushi no toki mairi (ox-hour visit), the curse is cast in the dead of night (the ox hour is around 2 a.m.) and is meant to spite either a faithless lover or a successful rival. Usually, a straw effigy was nailed to a tree near a shrine, and appropriate curses were chanted during the act. Harunobu has omitted the effigy, and the woman is not wearing the iron crown bearing three candles that was normally worn on the occasion. She also does not seem to be cursing. Instead, she looks almost as if dreaming, perhaps of sweet revenge.

This is a picture-calendar (e-goyomi) for the year 1765. As shown in the diagram below, the dai and shō months for that year appear in the light patches of the pattern on the woman's kimono: the dai months appear in the upper section (some characters are illegible) and the shō months in the lower section of her kimono. Because the numbers are embossed as relief without coloration, they are extremely difficult to read.

The print bears the commissioner's seal, kin, on the left side. The names of the carver, Sekine Kaei, and the artist, Suzuki Harunobu, appear in the lower left corner.

Visit to a Shrine at the Hour of the Ox (Ushi no toki mairi), Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 1725–1770), Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Japan

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