From Henry D. Smith II, ed., One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, by Hiroshige (New York: G. Braziller and Brooklyn Museum, 1986)

40.    Basho's Hermitage and Camellia Hill on the Kanda Aqueduct at Sekiguchi
        Sekiguchi josui-bata Bashoan Tsubakiyama (4/1857)

The view here looks west along the Kanda Aqueduct, the oldest of Edo's water-supply canals, constructed very early in the Tokugawa period. Drawing its water from Inokashira Pond, the canal followed the course of the natural Kanda River and, after incorporating other streams along the way, came on this point some 10 miles from its source. Three hundred yards farther downstream (back to the left in this view), a large dam that gave the area the name of Sekiguchi (“mouth of the dam”) spilled the overflow into the Edo River (not to be confused with the much larger Edogawa River), which then joined the Outer Moat at Iidabashi and became known again as the Kanda River as it continued on the final leg of its journey into the Sumida just north of Ryugoku Bridge. The Kanda Aqueduct itself meanwhile continued on its own separate course, passing through Korakuen (then the garden of the lord of Mito, now surviving in part within the huge amusement center of the same name) and on across a wooden channel spanning the Kanda River and then into underground pipes to supply the daimyo mansions east of Edo Castle and much of the downtown commoners’ area.

On the hillside to the right in this view was located Suijinsha, a shrine to the water god, protector of the Kanda Aqueduct, just as Suijin Shrine protected the Sumida. The shrine is located in the thick grove of trees seen to the far upper right, although the shrine building itself is not visible. Below, midway up the slope, is the Ryugean, a detached hermitage of a nearby Buddhist temple. The Ryugean was known for its beautiful natural setting, which looked out over the view we see here, with rice fields below a wooded rise, now the location of Waseda (“early rice-fields”) University, in the distance. The slopes surrounding the hermitage were covered with camellias, although Hiroshige here shows us only cherry blossoms. From this came the name "Camellia Hill," which survives in the name of the large banquet restaurant Chinzanso that occupies the site today.

        Sometime in the late Edo period, as seen Hiroshige's title, the Ryugean came to be known as “Basho's Hermitage,” after the famous haiku poet who is said to have briefly lived in this area (but doubtfully in Ryugean itself) in the 1670s while in the service of a daimyo who had been charged with repairing the Kanda Aqueduct. In the early eighteenth century, some disciples of Basho set up a memorial mound to the poet within the precincts of Ryugean, apparently higher on the hill to the right of the view here, and some time later the Basho Hall (Bashodo containing images of the poet and his major followers was built nearby. The memorial mound and the Basho Hall survive today, although closed to the public, just outside the south corner of the Chinzanso gardens. Recently, a pleasant cherry-lined walk has been constructed along the bank we see to the right here, restoring some of the tranquillity of Hiroshige’s vision.