The most prominent structure built in Asakusa in the Meiji era was the Cloud-Topping Pavilion, popularly known as the “Twelve-Story.” It was completed in 1890 but destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. The Pavilion boasted Japan’s first elevator, and all twelve stories were illuminated by electric lights. Kunimasa IV depicts both its exterior and its interior—the central section of the tower is constructed with printed flaps that open up from the first to the eleventh story, to reveal the building’s contents. The print also serves as a board for the game of sugoroku. Players would have rolled dice and progressed up the tower, opening the flaps and viewing the interior on every turn. Noteworthy, also, is the choice of intense colors, particularly the red in the background. Unknown in Japan until the mid-nineteenth century, this red hue came to be associated with progress and Westernization.
flags; buildings; skyscrapers; red; national identity; text; shopping; stores
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