Naito Shijuku, Yotsuya, No. 86 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

This woodblock print in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum (but currently not on view) is fascinating on so many levels, not the least of which is its perspective.

Created in the 11th month of 1857, it depicts not only the hindquarters of the horses but also their manure.  The place is Naito Shinjuku, the first stop on the main road out of Edo.  The low perspective reflects the nature of the place, as Naito Shinjuku was founded in 1698 as a semiofficial center of prostitution.  The girls who worked there were described as “flowers blooming in the horse droppings.”

For the horseman, perhaps the most striking aspect of this work of art is the straw wraps on the horses’ hooves.  Up until the 19th century, plaited horseshoes such as these, made of rice straw, were used to protect horses’ feet.  The straw slippers could be replaced as necessary.  I’m sure they felt more natural to the horse than today’s boots.