Hôzen Temple is today located down a small alley covering no more than several hundred square meters in Osaka's Dôtonbori theater district. The temple was established in 1637 (possibly after moving from Kyoto) and originally covered a much larger area. In the Tokugawa period it enjoyed a kind of extra-territoriality that made it possible to have a theatrical stage in its courtyard. Food stalls and teahouses were set up around the temple to sell refreshments to pilgrims who visited the temple; this eventually grew into a popular area for food and entertainment. The temple is dedicated to Fudô myô-ô (不動明王), vanquisher of demons, also called "The Immovable." Fudô myô-ô is a deity (or rather its avatar) of the Sun Buddha of the Shingon Buddhist sect. His image invariably displays one eye glaring down, the other upward, his mouth snarling with visible fangs, and long hair hanging down over his left shoulder. Fudô myô-ô traditionally stands on an immovable rock, encircled by fire, and subdues demons with a sword in his right hand and a rope in his left.
Hôzen-ji is still a pilgrimage site. Although all the structures were destroyed by fires from an air raid during World War II, the statue of Fudô Myô-ô survived. Legend has it that a woman once made a wish and poured water from her clasped hands over Fudô, which initiated a first growth of moss. Now every visitor pours water (with a dipper) over the statue nicknamed Mizukake Fudô (mizu, "water": 水) — now completely covered in moss.
The inset shows the Hôzenji, whereas the central view features a young woman seated next to an accounts book at a desk inside an okiya (geisha house: 置屋, a boarding house for geisha while they are under contract). In Sadanobu's design, the names of maiko and geisha are on yellow strips below the small Shintô house shrine and oil lamp. The papers were a means to keep track of the women and their various assignations. Near her elbow are snacks and a stylish Western teapot. Sadanobu's manner of drawing the face, body, and robes fits entirely within the Edo-based Utagawa bijin-ga tradition.
There are only a very small number of bijinga (pictures of beauties: 美人画) in the Osaka printmaking canon, as in the present series, which is made especially interesting by the pairing of beauties with the customs of Osaka.
References: HSH, no. 174-2