These stamps are the fourth of 5 pair issues that commemorates Sumo champions. The fourth issue commemorates the wrestlers on the Ryogoku Bridge on their way to the Sumo Tournament. Both the stamps illustrated above have a 50-Yen value, color gray, black, blue, tan, and red brown. All five colors are in various shades, printed on white un-watermarked paper using the photogravure and engraved process, perforated 13x13. The stamps in design measures 25mm x 35½ mm. The stamps were issued on January 13, 1979. The Scott catalog number is 1338 and 1339 and the continuous se-tenant pair is 1339a. Each stamp has a never hinged value of US$0.95 in the catalog issue 2011. The JSCA/Sakura catalog number is C790 and C791 and the continuous se-tenant pair is C791a. Each stamp has a never hinged value of 100 Japanese Yen in catalog issue 2009. The value is within the budget of most collectors. If you are a Sumo wrestler fan, mint or used, the fourth issue stamps are a must have for your Japan collection.
The Ryogoku Bridge
‘Ryogoku-bashi’, Ryogoku Bridge, is the oldest and first wooden bridge that crosses the Sumida River in downtown Edo. It is an impressive sight, and because of its age, it is slightly more famous than the ‘Eitai-bashi’, Eitai Bridge. The Ryogoku Bridge resembles a large wooden walkway traveled by the general public as well as Sumo wrestlers on tournament day, going to and from the arena in Ryogoku City. The bridge was named ‘Ryogoku-bashi’ because it links the two provinces of Musashi and Shimosa creating the city of Edo, which is divided by the Sumida River. The Edo City, on the east bank, contains the neighborhoods of Fukagawa, Kiba, Ryogoku and Sunamachi from the province of Shimosa and on the west bank, the Musashi province. Pedestrians walk across the arched wooden structure, pausing to look down at the pleasure boats and cargo ships crowding the water below. While on the bridge, the snow-covered peak of Mt. Fuji is visible with an unobstructed view.
The Ryogoku Bridge is a popular entertainment spot, where people in Edo go for recreation and relaxation. In the springtime, many people enjoy taking a stroll along the riverbank, which is lined with cherry trees. When the cherries are in full bloom, huge crowds turn out to have a picnic under the trees, and gaze up at the delicate pink blossoms. In the summertime, people escaping the heat of the city desire the cool water in the evening. The riverbanks beside Ryogoku Bridge are lined with food stalls and restaurants which invites people to stay the whole day. On a fine weather day, both the bridge itself and the roads along the shoreline are crowded with people out enjoying the recreation. In the evening, as darkness falls over the river, the sky is lit up by multicolored fireworks. Fireworks festivals are held several times a year in Ryogoku, usually to coincide with the Sumo tournaments.
A Synopsis of the Artist
Toyokuni I spent the last years of his career turning out coarse and decadent caricatures of his former efforts, he was nonetheless, a man of considerable talent. Toyokuni I produced a body of work containing many of the finest, most notable designs in the history of ‘Ukiyo-e’. He was the last great master making prints of Kabuki actors and Sumo Wrestlers. His portrait subjects took on a new sense of dramatic presence and realism. It became possible to identify certain actors and wrestlers by their facial features. Toyokuni I was gifted in depictions of subjects. Toyokuni was the son of a woodcarver who made puppets and dolls. Growing up in this environment, he was stimulated by the activity of craftsmen and their tools. As a youth, he was apprenticed to Toyoharu. Many of Toyokuni’s early triptychs of interior scenes of the Yoshiwara reveal his sound understanding of this technique. At the age of 15, while still a student of Kiyonaga, Toyokuni created his great series of ‘triptychs’ and ‘diptychs’ depicting the young men and women of Edo’s demimonde. At the age of 20, he was endowed with great vigor and ambition, and with a genuine respect for the printmakers working around him. In the late 1780’s, Toyokuni began producing ‘bijin-ga’, pictures of beautiful women. In 1792, Toyokuni continued to produce portraits of beautiful women of the Yoshiwara and views of their environs. At the end of that year, Toyokuni turned his attention to designing actor prints and published his prints through the publisher, Izumiya Ichibei. During the next decade, which was the period of the artist’s finest work, Toyokuni published his famous series Yakusha Butai no Sugata-e (Views of Actors on Stage) which was to be Toyokuni’s most extensive production. Fujikawa Mizuemon.