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The Tokaido was the road between the two capitals of Japan: Edo (now called Tokyo) and Kyoto. For many years, starting in the 7th Century A.D., this road was principally for government use. By the 18th and 19th century it had opened up to the people and was rapidly becoming an important pilgrimage Route. Travelling the Tokaido was an adventure that took one over treacherous mountains, across seas and rivers, and through breathtaking landscapes and fascinating towns and villages.

About 1830 a young artist named Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), the son of a minor samurai, travelled the Tokaido and made sketches that were turned into a woodblock print series published by Hoeido. Although not the first Tokaido set produced, it was a huge success and practically overnight Hiroshige became the most prominant landscape artist in Japan. Later he did many other Tokaido series including a fine series nicknamed the Upright Tokaido, considered his best series in a vertical format.

Hiroshige's success created a new demand for more landscapes and inspired other artists to illustrate the Tokaido. Kunisada (1786-1865), specializing in designs of actors and beautiful women, was the most popular artist at the time of period and used many of Hiroshige's Tokaido designs in a Tokaido series of his own, featuring a bijin (beautiful woman) in front of a Tokaido landscape.

The Stuart Jackson Gallery has published an excellent reference book on the Tokaido, Along the Tokaido with Hiroshige and Friends. It consists of 56 pages with almost 150 color illustrations depicting many first state Hoeido Tokaido prints, Reisho Tokaido, chuban Tokaido, the complete Upright Tokaido by Hiroshige, as well as a number of prints by Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, Kunisada,etc. The accompanying text discuses the various places, customs, history as well as discussing the various editions of Hiroshige prints. Many of these prints have never been on our web site. Price is $16 plus shipping.

 

 

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