These hundred yakko—low-ranking servants of samurai households—served the daimyo, and are here portrayed in a procession marching from their homeland to Edo. In the foreground a group of yakko have already begun marching while in the middle ground others are still preparing, braiding their hair, donning straw slippers for travel, seeing to ladders, and worrying about rain. Adding a dollop of humor to the work, some yakko are gambling, fighting, shaving, cooking or walking in snow in the far ground. This portrayal of the daily life of yakko is most interesting and yields a glimpse into their activities. Yakko were not bonded servants but were hired for one year, half a year, or one month, and after completion of their service would work for a different employer.
Tamate Toshu (1795-1871) was born in Osaka and was called Suisen’nin, “the drunken immortal,” because of his drinking habit. A pupil of Nankai Ranko (1766-1830), Toshu produced mostly landscape and figure compositions that are characterized, as here, by gentle and casual brushwork and a humorous approach to the subject.