Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido

The Tōkaidō road in Japan, linked Edo, the shōgun's capital, to the imperial capital of Kyōto. The road was the major trade and pilgrimage route between the two cities, and it was also used by the shōgun and his entourage when they traveled between Edo and Kyōto. Along the Tōkaidō road were 53 government-sanctioned post stations (shukuba) where travellers were able to rest. The stations provided stabling for horses, and lodging and food for weary travelers.

The artist Utagawa Hiroshige created a series of beautiful ukiyo-e woodcut prints of each of the 53 stations of the Tokaido after he first traveled the road in 1832. In creating the prints Hiroshige made use of the numerous sketches he made on his trip to Kyōto and on the return journey to Edo.

You can now explore Hiroshige's Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō on an actual map of the route on Sorami Hisamoto's interactive scollytelling map Tokaido Middle Scroll Chestnut Hair. I actually have a number of Hiroshige's prints adorning the walls of my home and it is fantastic to be able to use Sorami's map to learn more about each station which is depicted in these prints. 

Sorami's map displays the route of the Tōkaidō road and the 53 stations along its route. As you scroll through the map you visit each station in turn. As you reach each station on the route you can view Hisroshige's ukiyo-e print of the station and read a description of the station provided by Wikipedia.

Katsushika Hokusai's 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa' is probably the most famous ukiyo-e print and one of the most iconic images in all art history. His famous woodblock print is just one of a series of prints of Mount Fuji from 'Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji'. In these prints Hokusai depicts Mount Fuji from many different locations, and drawn at many different times of the year.

You can now place yourself in Hokusai's geta clogs using the Views of Mount Fuji interactive map. This map overlays seven of Hokusai's prints of Mount Fuji on top of the actual view as seen in ArcGIS Scene Viewer. The seven prints in Views of Mount Fuji includes The Great Wave of Kanagwa. It also includes the print 'Fine Wind, Clear Morning', which can be seen in the screen-grab above (also known as 'South Wind, Clear Sky' and 'Red Fuji').

The Great Wave of Kanagwa and hundreds of other Hokusai's prints can also be explored in detail on Google Arts and Culture. You can also explore Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo in loving detail on Google Arts and Culture. Google's presentation of Hiroshige's prints allows you to zoom in on each of the images. It also provides an introduction to the painter, his influence and his actual printing techniques.

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