Chikanobu (1838 – 1912) Jidai kagami (A Mirror of the Ages): The Meiji Era (1868-1912)
The old castle pictured in the cartouche of our second print is the ‘Imperial Residence’ of the new Meiji Emperor. Chikanobu was, like so many of his colleagues, conflicted between the desire for modernisation and progress (and an end to the corruption of the old regime), and a terrible sadness for the inevitable passing of the traditions of the past. This castle represents just such a conflict. Built in 1457 by the warrior Edo Shigetsugu in what is now the Honmaru and Ninomaru part of the Castle. It later became the seat of the old Tokugawa shogunate who rebuilt it in 1593 and completed it in 1636, but after centuries of power and total domestic and military dominance, the old regime, weakened and no longer relevant, were required to vacate the old Edo Castle in the revolution of 1868. Like so much of Japan’s past, the bulk of the medieval castle was pulled down.
The last vestiges were burnt in 1873 and the castle pictured in Chikanobu’s print is the new palace that was built for the Meiji Emperor in 1888. Some of the last Tokugawa era buildings which were still standing were destroyed to make space for new structures for the imperial government. The garrison, the castle, the keep, the towers and curtain walls, the moats and grounds were vast and the word castle doesn’t convey either its size or importance. It was of course hugely symbolic and its appearance in the Chikanobu print of the Meiji era is highly significant.