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A Trip to the Sceneries Depicted by Japan’s Two Most Famous Ukiyo-e Artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige

Early modern Japanese scenery as depicted by the world-famous ukiyo-e woodblock artists, Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. Are you curious about what these places look like today? Here are some famous spots that the two ukiyo-e masters depicted.

2017.09.14

1. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (Hokusai)

First is Hokusai's representative work, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. There are competing theories about the exact location depicted, but the most plausible one is that it depicts the scenery seen from Tokyo Bay of Kanagawa Ward’s off coast within Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture (near the coast of Honmoku in Yokohama today). The boats among the waves are likely carrying fresh fish or other produce from Chiba or Shizuoka to Tokyo. The noble Mt. Fuji creates a contrast to the great wave. This is an ukiyo-e that contrasts stillness and motion. The print was created around 1831. You can still enjoy the contrasting scenery between modern-day Port of Yokohama and the majestic Mt. Fuji today.


*The image is the view from Daikoku Pier


1. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (Hokusai)

2. Inside Kameido Tenjin Shrine (Hiroshige)

Next is the piece that depicts Kameido Tenjin Shrine in Tokyo. This shrine, which was built in 1662, is dedicated to the greatly venerated saint of learning and calligraphy. It is famous for its wisteria trees, and Hiroshige depicted it in one of his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. The arched bridge behind the wisteria forms an impeccable balance within the scene. It was created in 1857.


3. Kintai Bridge at Iwakuni in Suo Province (Hokusai)

This print depicts one of Japan's three great bridges, Kintaikyo Bridge in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The precise yet unique structure of this bridge, constructed with five consecutive arches (built in 1673), is said to be perfect from the perspective of modern bridge engineering. Hokusai depicted Kintaikyo Bridge in the rain. In front are the houses of the castletown and Iwakuni Castle is in the back. The print was created around 1830 - 1844.

Bridge Toll: 300 JPY


3. Kintai Bridge at Iwakuni in Suo Province (Hokusai)

4. Morning Scene at Nihonbashi (Hiroshige)

During the Edo Period (1603 - 1867), 53 lodging stations where travelers could stay were developed along the Tokaido Road that connected Nihonbashi (Edo) with Sanjo Ohashi (Kyoto). This piece is one of the most famous of Hiroshige's ukiyo-e series of the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road. The Nihonbashi bridge depicted in it was the starting point for this network. It depicts the busy and lively mornings of Edo back then. It was created sometime in the 1830s. The current Nihonbashi bridge is its 20th incarnation that was built in 1911. The scenery changed dramatically when the Shuto Expressway opened above the bridge in 1963, but it is still loved by people as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.


4. Morning Scene at Nihonbashi (Hiroshige)

5. Yamashiro Arashiyama Togetsukyo (Hokusai)

The Togetsukyo bridge is in Arashiyama, Kyoto – an area known for its picturesque scenery. The current bridge was built in 1934. It is known for its spring cherry blossoms and fall foliage. Hokusai depicted it when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. This is a piece that sets a beautiful contrast between the blooming cherry blossoms and the green of the pine trees. The adorable figures of the boatmen who seem entranced by the beauty of the cherry blossoms make an impression on the viewer. The piece was created between 1833 and 1834.


One of the pleasures of this is trip to compare the present-day scenery with the scenery depicted in the prints. Why not try visiting these locations?

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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Writer: nakamura

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