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80626-0003 - Tako no Matsu pine tree in Osaka, 1870s

Osaka 1870s
The Octopus Pine

Artist Unknown
Publisher Unknown
Medium Albumen Print
Period Meiji
Location Osaka
Image No. 80626-0003
Purchase Digital File
Author

This very rare image shows the Tako no Matsu (鮹之松, Octopus Pine) at Osaka’s Nakanoshima. The tree was so famous, ukiyoe woodblock prints and guidebooks celebrated it.

Tako no Matsu was located in front of a kurayashiki (蔵屋敷, a combined warehouse and residence) of the daimyo (lord) of Kurume (久留米), a town in Fukuoka Prefecture.

During the Edo Period (1603-1868), the banks of Nakanoshima were lined with many kurayashiki of daimyo who brought their domain‘s rice and other products to Osaka for sale.

The daimyo would also rest here on their way to Edo (current Tokyo). The Shogunate‘s requirement that daimyo spent alternate years in the capital (Sankin Kotai), meant that daimyo ended up traveling a lot, so the kurayashiki was far more than merely a branch office.

210125-0001 - Night View of the Octopus Pine
Ukiyoe woodblock print titled Night View of the Octopus Pine (鮹の松夜の景, Tako-no-matsu yoru no kei), from the series One Hundred Views of Osaka (浪華百景, Naniwa hyakkei) by Osaka printmaker Kunikazu Utagawa (歌川国員, active 1848-1868), ca. 1860 (Ansei 7).

Tako no Matsu got its name because it was shaped like a swimming octopus. During the Edo Period, the tree was considered one of the major sightseeing spots in Osaka and was represented on several ukiyoe (woodblock prints). It was also described in Settsu Meisho Zue Taisei (摂津名所図会大成), an Edo Period travel guide for Osaka1:

This large historical tree is of striking beauty, with leaves and branches growing luxuriantly. In the whole area along the river there is no finer scenic spot than here.

Other guidebooks that introduced the tree were Naniwa no Nigiwai (浪華の賑ひ), published in 1855 (Ansei 2), and Osaka Meisho Hitori Annai (大阪名所独案内), published in 1882 (Meiji 15). Both guides featured a woodblock print of the tree with a brief description2.

It was clearly considered an important tree and was decorated with a shimenawa (sacred rope) during New Year. A large amount of money was spent on its upkeep. The tree died during the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). A stump is still kept by Osaka University of Education (大阪教育大学).

In 2004 (Heisei 16), a new Tako no Matsu was planted, but not in the original location and not half as imposing as the one on this image. Whereas the original tree matched its surroundings perfectly, the current one looks very sad and lonely among all the concrete it is surrounded by.3

Houses near Tamino Bridge
Detail showing houses near the Tamino Bridge. Notice the cat enjoying the view from the roof.

The stone steps in the foreground show that this was a landing place for boats, which would unload their cargo here. The bridge in the back is the Tamino Bridge (田蓑橋). This almost 92 meter long wooden bridge was built in 1693 (Genroku 6). It was destroyed by a flood in 1885 (Meiji 18). Although quickly rebuilt by another wooden bridge, it was replaced by an iron bridge in 1901 (Meiji 34). The current Tamino Bridge dates from 1965 (Showa 40).4

What makes this image special is that the bridge in the foreground, called the Kurume Bridge, is made of wood. Other images of this tree usually show a bridge with railings made of cast iron. This dates this image to the early Meiji Period. The bridge, a so called funairibashi (舟入橋, bridge to let boats in) spanned a small canal that allowed boats to enter the domain’s compound for easier loading and off-loading of cargo.5

80626-0003 - Kurumebashi at Nakanoshima, Osaka, 1870s
Kurume Bridge. The long exposure has reduced the person on the left to a ghost-like image. The man standing on the middle of the bridge clearly didn't move much.

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Notes

1 Yomiuri Shimbun Shakaibu (1987). Scenes of Naniwa: Osaka Time Tunnel. Warajiya Publishing Co., Ltd, 9. Japanese: 同所の浜辺にあり枝葉繁茂し四面にたれて恰もたこに似たるを以て名とす頗る大樹の名木なり。此辺すべて河岸にして景色もっとも絶勝なり。

2 『大阪名所独案内』鮹の松 病院北、堂島川ノ南岸ニアリ:玉江橋の東、旧久留米邸ノ浜にある大樹の老松をかく号く、枝葉繁茂して、四方に垂るゝ形ち、恰も鮹の如し、一に鶴之松とも称す、遠望めハ、鶴の舞ふすがたに似たりと云、又此辺りに昔亀の形に似し老松ありしが、枯たりと云へり。

3 蛸の松. Retrieved on 2009-01-11.

4 ウィキペディア、「田蓑橋」。Retrieved on 2009-01-11.

5 Yomiuri Shimbun Shakaibu (1987). Scenes of Naniwa: Osaka Time Tunnel. Warajiya Publishing Co., Ltd, 8-10.

6 The same image is also part of the Ueda Teijiro Photo-Materials Archives (上田貞治郎写真史料アーカイブ), held at Osaka City University. It is the only other print of this image that I am aware of.

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Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). Osaka 1870s: The Octopus Pine, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on October 4, 2022 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/687/the-octopus-pine

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