The Japanese word for skeleton is gaikotsu (骸骨).
The giant skeleton, that was summoned around eight centuries ago by princess Takiyasha of the Sōma clan, has his eyes pinned on the back of the ferryman who is on his way to the elegant world of the pleasure quarters.
This print shows in a refined way, the dangers and nearing-end of the profession that became vastly popular in the latter half of the Edo period.
The skeleton in this print represents on one hand the hardships that the ferrymen face during days in which the sun does not shine. This is because the profession of ferrymen can be dangerous under the extreme weather conditions in the rainy season and typhoon season.
On the other hand, the gaikotsu is used as a symbol to mark the end of the profession of ferrymen like the one depicted in the print. Small boats that could only ferry a few people at a time were common under the ruling of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period. This is due to the fact that they forbade the construction of many bridges for defensive reasons, forcing travellers to either walk during periods of low water or make use of these small boats.
Ferrymen slowly became redundant with the construction of many bridges under the new Meiji government that took control of Japan in 1868.
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