The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō

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The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō (東海道五十三次, Tōkaidō Gojūsan-tsugi), in the Hōeidō edition (1833–1834), is a series of ukiyo-e woodcut prints created by Utagawa Hiroshige after his first travel along the Tōkaidō in 1832.[1]

The Tōkaidō road, linking the shōgun's capital, Edo, to the imperial one, Kyōto, was the main travel and transport artery of old Japan. It is also the most important of the "Five Roads" (Gokaidō)—the five major roads of Japan created or developed during the Edo period to further strengthen the control of the central shogunate administration over the whole country.

Even though the Hōeidō edition is by far the best known, The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō was such a popular subject that it led Hiroshige to create some 30 different series of woodcut prints on it, all very different one from the other by their size (ōban or chuban), their designs or even their number (some series include just a few prints).

The Hōeidō edition of the Tōkaidō is Hiroshige's best known work, and the best sold ever ukiyo-e Japanese prints.[2] Coming just after Hokusai's Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, it established this new major theme of ukiyo-e, the landscape print, or fūkei-ga, with a special focus on "famous views".

The Tōkaidō[edit]

The Tōkaidō was one of the Five Routes constructed under Tokugawa Ieyasu, a series of roads linking the historical capital of Edo with the rest of Japan. The Tōkaidō connected Edo with the then-capital of Kyoto. The most important and well-traveled of these, the Tōkaidō travelled along the eastern coast of Honshū, thus giving rise to the name Tōkaidō ("Eastern Sea Road"). Along this road, there were 53 different post stations, which provided stables, food, and lodging for travelers.

Hiroshige and the Tōkaidō[edit]

Illustration of Okabe from "Compilation of Views of Famous Sights along the Tōkaidō" (東海道名所図会, Tōkaidō meisho zue) station Ishibe (1797), which influenced Hiroshige

In 1832, Hiroshige traveled the length of the Tōkaidō from Edo to Kyoto, as part of an official delegation transporting horses that were to be presented to the imperial court.[3] The horses were a symbolic gift from the shōgun, presented annually in recognition of the emperor's divine status.[4]

The landscapes encountered during the journey left a profound impression on the artist, inspiring him to create numerous sketches throughout the trip and upon his return to Edo via the same route. Upon arriving home, he immediately commenced work on the first prints for The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō.[3] In the end, he completed a total of 55 prints for the entire series: one for each station along the Tōkaidō, as well as one for both the starting and ending points. But whether he actually visited all the stations and depicted them from his view is subject to academic debate, as some elements in his woodblock prints have been found to actually borrow directly from other works such as the Tōkaidō meisho zue (東海道名所図会) from 1797. An example is the view of the station Ishibe „Megawa Village“ which is almost identical to the view in the Tōkaidō meisho zue.[5]

The first of the prints in the series was published jointly by the publishing houses of Hōeidō and Senkakudō, with the former handling all subsequent releases on its own.[3] Woodcuts of this style commonly sold as new for between 12 and 16 copper coins apiece, approximately the same price as a pair of straw sandals or a bowl of soup.[6] The runaway success of The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō established Hiroshige as the most prominent and successful printmaker of the Tokugawa era.[7]

Hiroshige followed up on this series with The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso Kaidō in cooperation with Keisai Eisen, documenting each of the post stations of the Nakasendō (which was alternatively referred to as the Kiso Kaidō).

The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (Hōeidō edition)[edit]

The Hōeidō edition is properly titled Tōkaidō Gojūsan-tsugi no uchi (東海道五十三次之内).[8] Besides the fifty-three stations themselves, the series includes one print for the departure, Nihonbashi (the bridge of Japan), and a final one, the 55th print, Keishi, Kyoto, the imperial capital.

No. Woodcut print Station no. and English name Japanese Transliteration
1 First edition:

Second edition:
Leaving Edo : Nihonbashi, (The bridge of Japan) 日本橋 Nihonbashi
1st station : Shinagawa.[N 1] 品川 Shinagawa
2nd station : Kawasaki 川崎 Kawasaki
3rd station : Kanagawa 神奈川 Kanagawa
4th station : Hodogaya 程ヶ谷, 保土ヶ谷 Hodogaya
5th station : Totsuka 戸塚 Totsuka
6th station : Fujisawa 藤沢 Fujisawa
7th station : Hiratsuka 平塚 Hiratsuka
8th station : Oiso (Rain on a town by the coast) 大磯 Oiso
9th station : Odawara (Crossing the Sakawa river at a ford) 小田原 Odawara
10th station : Hakone (High rocks by a lake) 箱根 Hakone
11th station : Mishima (Travellers passing a shrine in the mist) 三島 Mishima
12th station : Numazu 沼津 Numazu
13th station : Hara (Travellers passing Mount Fuji) Hara
14th station : Yoshiwara 吉原 Yoshiwara
15th station : Kanbara (A village in the snow) 蒲原 Kanbara
16th station : Yui (Travellers on a high cliff by the sea) 由井, 由比 Yui
17th station : Okitsu 興津 Okitsu
18th station : Ejiri 江尻 Ejiri
19th station : Fuchū 府中, 駿府 Fuchū
20th station : Mariko (A roadside restaurant) 鞠子, 丸子 Mariko
21st station : Okabe 岡部 Okabe
22nd station : Fujieda 藤枝 Fujieda
23rd station : Shimada 島田 Shimada
24th station : Kanaya (Crossing a wide river) 金屋, 金谷 Kanaya
25th station : Nissaka 日坂 Nissaka
26th station : Kakegawa 掛川 Kakegawa
27th station : Fukuroi 袋井 Fukuroi
28th station : Mitsuke 見附 Mitsuke
29th station : Hamamatsu 浜松 Hamamatsu
30th station : Maisaka 舞阪 Maisaka
31st station : Arai 荒井, 新居 Arai
32nd station : Shirasuka 白須賀 Shirasuka
33rd station : Futagawa 二川 Futagawa
34th station : Yoshida 吉田 Yoshida
35th station : Goyu 御油 Goyu
36th station : Akasaka 赤坂 Akasaka
37th station : Fujikawa 藤川 Fujikawa
38th station : Okazaki 岡崎 Okazaki
39th station : Chiryu 池鯉鮒, 知立 Chiryu
40th station : Narumi 鳴海 Narumi
41st station : Miya Miya
42nd station : Kuwana 桑名 Kuwana
43rd station : Yokkaichi 四日市 Yokkaichi
44th station : Ishiyakushi 石薬師 Ishiyakushi
45th station : Shōno[N 2] (Travellers surprised by sudden rain) 庄野 Shōno
46th station : Kameyama (A castle on a snow-covered slope) 亀山 Kameyama
47th station : Seki (Departure from the inn) Seki
48th station : Sakashita 坂下 Sakashita
49th station : Tsuchiyama 土山 Tsuchiyama
50th station : Minakuchi 水口 Minakuchi
51st station : Ishibe 石部 Ishibe
52nd station : Kusatsu 草津 Kusatsu
53rd station : Otsu 大津 Otsu
The end of the Tōkaidō: arriving at Kyoto. 京師 Sanjō Ōhashi at Keishi ("the capital")

Historical impact[edit]

Cats Suggested As The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, 1850

In 1850, Utagawa Kuniyoshi created his woodblock print inspired by the Hiroshige's, called Cats Suggested As The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. Unlike Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi showed every station not with a landscape, but with "cat puns".[9]

During his time in Paris, Vincent van Gogh was an avid collector of ukiyo-e, amassing with his brother a collection of several hundred prints purchased in the gallery of S. Bing.[10] This collection included works from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō, and Van Gogh incorporated stylistic elements from his collection into his own work, such as bright colors, natural details, and unconventional perspectives.[11] In his personal correspondence, he stated, "all of my work is founded on Japanese art", and described the Impressionists as "the Japanese of France".[12]

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was an enthusiastic collector of Hiroshige's prints, including those of The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō. In 1906, he staged the first ever retrospective of Hiroshige's work at the Art Institute of Chicago, describing them in the exhibition catalog as some of "the most valuable contributions ever made to the art of the world".[13] Two years later, he contributed elements of his collection to another exhibition of ukiyo-e at the Art Institute. Wright also designed the gallery space of the exhibit, which at that time was the largest display of its kind in history.[13] Appreciating the prints on a professional level as well as an aesthetic one, Wright mined his prints for insights into the nature of designing structures, modifying damaged prints by adding lines and shadow in an effort to understand their operating principles.[14]

Hiroshige's Tokaidō prints have since been referenced in popular culture. Weezer's 1996 album Pinkerton, for example, uses Kanbara as its cover art.[15]

In 2012, British contemporary artist Carl Randall created paintings of the people and places along the contemporary Tokaido Highway, walking in the footsteps of the Japanese ukiyo-e printmaker Andō Hiroshige.[16] The project resulted in a group of 15 paintings exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of The 2013 BP Portrait Award exhibition, under the title "In the Footsteps of Hiroshige - The Tokaido Highway and Portraits of Modern Japan".[17][18] The exhibition subsequently toured to The Aberdeen Art Gallery Scotland,[19] and then formed his solo exhibition in Japan ‘Portraits from Edo to the Present’[20][21][22] at The Shizuoka City Tokaido Hiroshige Museum, where the paintings were exhibited alongside Hiroshige's original The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō woodblock prints.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shinagawa overlooked the Shinagawa bay, south of Edo; the seashore was strewn with brothels, where courtesans received their clients. Balconies were overlooking the beautiful seascapes of the bay, depicted by Kiyonage in his famous series of diptychs, Minami no Juniko (the twelve months of the South)
  2. ^ Shōno is one of the most famous prints of the whole series.


  1. ^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Tōkaidō Gojūsan tsugi" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 973.
  2. ^ Forbes, Andrew; Henley, David (2014). Utagawa Hiroshige's 53 Stations of the Tokaido. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. B00LM4APAI (full series)
  3. ^ a b c Oka, Isaburō. Hiroshige: Japan's Great Landscape Artist, p. 75. Kodansha International, 1992. ISBN 4-7700-2121-6
  4. ^ Hagen, Rose-Marie, and Rainer Hagen. Masterpieces in Detail: What Great Paintings Say, Vol. 2, p. 357. Taschen, 2000. ISBN 3-8228-1372-9
  5. ^ "English: Illustration of Okabe from "Compilation of Views of Famous Sights along the Tōkaidō" (東海道名所図会, "Tōkaidō meisho zue") ; text by Akisato Ritō and illustrated by Kitao Masayoshi and Takehara Shunsensai, 1797, vl. I". 1797.
  6. ^ Hagen & Hagen, Masterpieces in Detail, p. 352.
  7. ^ Goldberg, Steve. "Hiroshige" in Lives & Legacies: An Encyclopedia of People Who Changed the World - Writers and Musicians, Ed. Michel-André Bossy, Thomas Brothers & John C. McEnroe, p.86. Greenwood Press, 2001. ISBN 1-57356-154-1
  8. ^ 保永堂版 東海道五拾三次 [The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, Hōeidō edition] (in Japanese). Chisoku Art Museum. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Obsessed with Cats: The Ukiyo-e Prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi". 10 October 2016.
  10. ^ Edwards, Cliff. Van Gogh and God: A Creative Spiritual Quest, p. 90. Loyola Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8294-0621-2
  11. ^ Edwards. Van Gogh and God, p. 94.
  12. ^ Edwards. Van Gogh and God, p. 93.
  13. ^ a b Fowler, Penny. Frank Lloyd Wright: Graphic Artist, p. 30. Pomegranate, 2002. ISBN 0-7649-2017-0
  14. ^ Fowler, Frank Lloyd Wright, p. 31.
  15. ^ "Hiroshige / Evening Snow at Kambara (Kambara yoru no yuki), no. 16 from the Series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido (Tokaido gosantsugi no uchi) / 1832 – 1833". Archived from the original on February 7, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  16. ^ "US artist wins £25,000 BP Portrait prize with painting of 'Auntie'. 'Carl Randall - Painting the faces in Japan's crowded cities'.", The Guardian, 2012
  17. ^ The 2012 BP Travel Award, The National Portrait Gallery, London, 2013, retrieved 11 December 2013
  18. ^ Susan (19 June 2013), In the Footsteps of Hiroshige - The Tokaido Highway and Portraits of Modern Japan, The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London, retrieved 11 December 2013
  19. ^ Victoria Pease (12 November 2013). "Painting Japan: Carl Randall on bringing Asia to Aberdeen". STV. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  20. ^ 東海道ハイウェイー江戸から現代の肖像ー. (in Japanese), Shizuoka Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Japan, 2014
  21. ^ Carl Randall's 'Tokaido Highway Portraits' to be displayed in Japan for the first time, 8 July to 11 September 2014., The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London, 2014
  22. ^ Follow in the footsteps of Carl Randall on the Tokaido Highway (Time Out Tokyo), Time Out Tokyo, Japan, 2014

External links[edit]