Panoramic views of Kyoto, filled with endlessly fascinating details first appeared in the beginning of the sixteenth century and remained popular until the eighteenth century. Such screens were in great demand among the people of Kyoto and were purchased also by out-of-town visitors as a souvenir of their visit to the capital. A few screens can be attributed to a specific artist, but most, including those shown here, are by ambitious, anonymous town painters in large ateliers. The lavish, no-expense-spared use of gold, high-quality pigments such as cinnabar, malachite and azurite, the attention to minute detail, and clearly structured composition signal the viewer that this is a special commission on the highest order.
The organization of Kyoto panoramas evolved in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in response to political changes. The government of Kyoto changed from an unstable balance of contending factions to the firm central authority of the Tokugawa shogunate. At the same time, with the advent of peace and prosperity in the early seventeenth century, there was an increasing interest in the activities of ordinary citizens and the secular world of entertainment. The cityscape is arranged with east and west Kyoto on the right and left screens, respectively. The Great Buddha Hall and the Imperial Palace are always featured on the right screen. Nijo Castle dominates the left screen and is generally the largest and most impressive building in the composition. Nijo Castle was completed in 1603 as the temporary residence of the new shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. It became a symbol of the Tokugawa presence in Kyoto and their victory over the forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.