Japan Art and Hiroshige: Tōkaidō Road in the Winter

Japan Art and Hiroshige: Tōkaidō Road in the Winter

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) made countless prints of the Tōkaidō Road. In this art piece, the emphasis is on the winter season concerning delightful landscapes.

This famous road links Edo (Tokyo) to the esteemed cultural city of Kyoto (imperial capital). Accordingly, ukiyo-e printmakers understood the potential of interacting with laypeople by focusing on the Tōkaidō Road (eastern sea route).

The Princeton University Library says, “Much like the fabled Route 66 in the United States, Tōkaidō Road was a 300-mile-long thoroughfare along Japan’s eastern seacoast. Its fifty-three stations or “rest stops” were legendary destinations in and of themselves. “Armchair travelers” could also experience the excitement of traveling the Tōkaidō vicariously through woodblock prints, books, and scrolls…” 

Hiroshige influenced countless esteemed artists internationally. These included Van Gogh (1853-90), Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinsky (1875-1957), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Édouard Manet (1832-1883), and others.

The British Museum says, “He started producing landscape prints in the early 1830s, establishing his own unique style with the series ‘Famous Places in Edo’ (Ichiyusai signature) and ‘Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Highway’ of 1832-3. He continued to excel at views of famous places throughout his career and managed to express in great detail the poetic sensibility inherent in the climate and topography of Japan and the people who lived there. Hiroshige also designed many masterpieces in the genre of bird and flower prints, once again creating a world where poetry and painting combined.”

Overall, these lovely winter prints by Hiroshige provide a glimpse into the Edo Period. At the same time, the winter landscapes depict the harsh conditions faced by workers, travelers, local people, pilgrims, and others.

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