The 53 Stations of the Tokaido

The 53 Stations of the Tokaido is Hiroshige's trademark series. The original Tokaido prints were completed in 1834, but Hiroshige returned to the subject again and again. [Hakone] There are actually 55 prints in the series. It includes not only the 53 way stations on the road from Tokyo to Kyoto, but also the starting point at the Nihon-bashi (Japan bridge) in central Tokyo, and the ending at Kyoto. Two of the original Tokaido series are represented here. The first, number 11 (Hakone), is a view showing Lake Ashi and the nearby mountains. A daimyo procession is heading up the road into the mountains. Lake Ashi lies below, and the snow-covered cone of Mt. Fuji can be seen in the distance past the lake. Portions of the old Tokaido road are still preserved in Hakone, and much of the area is now a national park.

[Kambara] Hiroshige created many extraordinarily beautiful snow scenes (something especially appreciated here in Rochester, NY!). One of his most famous is the evening snow at Kambara, number 16, where several isolated travelers trudge through the evening snow. There are two variants of this print, the other having a gray sky above, with a clear black area of sky visible beyond the mountains.

1855 Tokaido Series

Hiroshige returned to the Tokaido theme many times over the next quarter century, creating at least 16 Tokaido series in a variety of formats. One of the later series is the Gojusan Tsugi Meisho Dzuye published by Tsutaya in 1855. Like the original series, these are also oban sized (39 x 26 cm), but unlike the originals, they are in a vertical rather than horizontal format. Two examples from my collection, and one from Bertrand Schmitt are available here.

[Okabe] At the left is a mountain scene, "The Road Through the Ivy at Mt. Utsu near Okabe" (number 22). A few travelers are proceeding up a mountain pass to a yellow rest house. A rounded mountain rises up over the clouds ahead of them. It appears to float amongst the clouds. As in the original Tokaido series, there is a stream running along the right side of the path. If you look very closely at the large version, you will note that the bottom traveler is carrying a tengu mask on his back. This indicates he is a pilgrim travelling to (or from) the Kompira shrine for a festival. Similar pilgrims occur elsewhere in the other Tokaido series, at Numazu in the original Tokaido and at Fuchu in the Gyosho Tokaido (1841-2). This latter picture is shown in Stephen Addiss's Japanese Ghosts and Demons, but incorrectly identified as part of the original series.

[Kusatsu] The second print, "The Bow and Bowstring Route from Kusatsu to Yasabe" is from the same series (number 53). We see boats loading and unloading in the foreground, with other boats crossing the water. There's a castle across the water on the right, at the foot of the mountains. If you examine the large version, you'll see a very prominent woodgrain in center of the picture.

[Totsuka] "View of Mt. Fuji from the Mountain Road near Totsuka" (number 6) is a rather unusual view. The Tokaido Road and its travelers are almost hidden in the middle of the picture, which is dominated by a foreground rice paddy and by Fuji looming in the background.

I would like to put the whole vertical Tokaido series on my server. Contributions of jpegs, tiffs, etc. of the other prints in the series are welcome.

36 Views of Mt. Fuji

[Motosu] Hiroshige also created many prints that were not on the Tokaido Road. He did two Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji series. This print, from the 1858 series in vertical oban format, shows Fuji as seen from the Misaka pass in Kai Province, across Lake Motosu. If it looks vaguely familiar, it may be because a distorted form of the print is commonly seen on the Net. This version has been restored to its original vertical oban proportions.

Many of the Hiroshige prints available on the Net are indexed in Hans Olof Johansson's Floating World of Cyberspace.