Of the numerous series of landscape scenes designed by Hiroshige, none is better known, or has brought him wider fame, than his celebrated early set of Views (oblong) on the Tokaido, the road running along the eastern coast between the two capitals Yedo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto, a distance of 323 miles, entitled the "Fifty-three Stations of the Eastern Road" (Tokaido Go-ju-san-Tsugi), issued jointly about the year 1834, by the publishers Hoyeido (seal Take-Uchi) and Senkakudo.

So great was its popularity that this series ran through many editions, each one worse printed than its predecessor : copies from these inferior editions are numerous ; fine impressions of the first edition are rare.

A certain number of the earliest impressions from the first edition of some three thousand copies were bound up complete in two volumes.

In volume form the full title is Tokaido Go-ju-san eki zuye tsuzuki yoko-ye ("Continuous Oblong Views of the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido") ; the abbreviated title as given above (Tokaido Go ju-san-Tsugi) is that inscribed on each plate of the series.

These two volumes are generally taken as the standard for deciding which of the different states in which many of the plates are found constitutes the original one.

Fuji-yama alone has been depicted more frequently than this historic highway of Japan, and no artist has done fuller justice to it than Hiroshige, nor more vividly portrayed the characteristics of the people who thronged it. All classes of the population, from the daimyo travelling in his norimono, surrounded by his escort, to the coolie and mendicant by the wayside, are depicted, often with a strong sense of humour.

Captain Osborn, to whom we referred in our opening chapter, and who travelled along part of this road about the year 1858, says of these stages on the Tokaido : "The lords of the various manors are compelled by the authorities to maintain these places of refreshment for travellers ; they are vastly superior to the caravanserais of the East, and relays of horses or porters are always ready at these post-houses, and must do all work at a regular fixed charge, ridiculously small according to English notions. Another and still more onerous duty falls on these establishments, and that is the responsibility of forwarding all Imperial dispatches between the two capitals, or from Yedo to any part of the Empire. Runners are consequently ever ready to execute this task." We see such a runner depicted in the view for station No. 8, Hiratsuka (illustrated at Plate 9).

The social status of a person is indicated by the manner in which he travels. The daimyo and people of the upper class travel in norimono, which are roomy enough to allow of a fair amount of ease, and are comfortably furnished. The sides can be opened or closed at will, as a protection against the weather. The length of the pole proclaims the rank of the passenger ; if a nobleman, a long pole borne by five or six men at each end ; a person of lower rank, a shorter pole and only four carriers. If the occupant is a prince of the royal family, the pole rests on the palms of the hands, otherwise it is borne on the shoulders. Humble individuals have to be satisfied with a kago carried by two porters, which entails a very cramped position. In steep mountain regions everyone, whatever their rank, is obliged to use a kago.

The complete series of Tokaido views consists of fifty-five plates, views of the two capitals, Yedo and Kyoto, being added to those of the fifty-three stages on the road. In addition, six plates out of the first ten are found redrawn with variations, due perhaps to the originals having been lost in a fire, or to their becoming much worn through the large number of impressions taken from them, by reason of a greater demand for these particular views, thus necessitating a new key-block altogether from a fresh design.

Other plates will be found with variations in the colour-blocks, while the key-block remains the same, or the alteration will be confined to the omission in a later issue of certain lettering, as, for example, with Plate 36 (Goyu station) or Plate 46 (Shono station).

A complete set, therefore, showing all the known variations, will consist of some seventy prints.

The following are the plates comprising this series, with the variations where they occur :
Plate 1. Nihon Bashi. View looking across the Nihon Bridge, Yedo, from whence all distances were measured - the "London Bridge" of Japan - with a daimyo's cortege coming into view over the summit. In the foreground a group of five fish-vendors (and a sixth partly hidden) getting out of the way, on the left, and two dogs on the right. Rosy sky on horizon, changing to blue across the top and blue clouds in left half of sky. Very uncommon in this earliest state.
1st variation. Blue clouds omitted in sky.
2nd variation. Clouds omitted, and foreground filled with many more figures ; dogs in centre, and drawn smaller.
Plate 2. Shinagawa. A street of houses backing on to the seashore, and the tail-end of a daimyo's procession passing along it ; behind the houses ships moored in the bay. A variation shows four more figures in the procession. (Publisher Senkakudo, 1st state.)
Plate 3. Kawasaki. A ferry-boat crossing the river, and passengers waiting on the further bank in front of a cluster of houses ; Fuji in the distance. Close to the further bank is a man on a raft.
Variation plate. The second issue shows both inferior drawing and inferior colour compared with the first state. The man is gone from the raft ; the boatman's head is turned the opposite way ; Fuji is indicated only by a white shape in a yellow sky, no outline block ; fewer trees and more roughly drawn, and fewer huts in the village in the background. The first issue carries the red seal of the publisher Senkakudo, the second a red gourd-shaped seal marked kiwame and Take (i.e. Hoyeido).
Plate 4. Kanagawa. View of a street along the top of a cliff overlooking Yedo Bay, and female touts trying to drag travellers into the resthouses. Late issues show slight variations, the chief of which is a row of posts in the water, while the position of the blue cloud is altered to the right (see Plate B, page 22).
Plate 5. Hodogaya. A bridge over a stream, and across it two coolies are carrying a closed kago towards a village on the opposite bank ; behind the village rises a low wooded hill. (Publisher Senkakudo.)
Plate 6. Totsuka. A man dismounting from his horse in front of an open tea-house, while a waitress stands by to receive him.
Greater differences appear in the variation block of this view than in any other, as will be seen by the illustrations of them at Plate 9.
In the second edition the tea-house is boarded up, thus shutting out the view of the hill beyond, the man is mounting his horse, though the attitude of the waitress remains the same. Other minor differences will also be noticed, such as in the banks of the stream, and the trees.
Plate 7. Fujisawa. The village by the edge of a stream, and a bridge leading to it, over which people are passing. In background, overlooking the village on a wooded hill, above the mists, stands the temple Yugi-o-ji; in the foreground a torii, and close to it four blind men following each other by the bank of the stream.
Plate 7a. Katase, on the Enoshima Road. Katase is a small village lying between stations Fujisawa and Hiratsuka, and though this plate appears to have been made for the Tokaido set, it is not included in the two volumes published on completion of the series, and it is, moreover, extremely rare. Its rarity, and the fact that it does not appear in the bound book of Tokaido views, may very likely be due to the accidental destruction or loss of the block early in its career, when only very few impressions had been taken from it. The village is shown lying at the foot of a hill on the left, crowned with trees, and two men admiring the view from the summit ; in the distance the tree-covered island of Enoshima, towards which people are wending their way along the narrow sand-bank connecting it with the mainland. (Anonymous sale, June, 1913 ; illustrated at Plate VIII of Catalogue.)
Plate 8. Hiratsuka. A zigzag road, lined with a few trees, traversing fields, and a courier running along and passing two other travellers. In the background a dark, round-topped hill, behind which a white Fuji appears in the distance. In best impressions the fields are bluish-green, deep blue along the edges of the road ; deep blue sky behind hills, changing to red at top. (See Plate 9.)
Plate 9. Oiso. The approach through rice-fields along a narrow road lined with trees, to a curving street of huts, overlooking the sea, and travellers entering the village under a downpour of rain. First edition copies have a pale yellow sky changing to black at the top.
Plate 10. Odawara. A daimyo's cortege being carried across the River Sakawa; the background a mass of high, jagged hills, the most distant printed from colour-blocks only. This plate is found in four different states ; the first may be recognized by there being only two figures on the near bank of the river. In the second and third states there are five, and in the fourth there are four, while in all states the outline of the distant hills varies. Each state is found with variations in the colour-scheme.
State 1. This is the view included in the bound two-volume edition which is generally taken as the standard in determining the first issue of plates found in different states. Two coolies on near shore ; mountains immediately behind village and castle on further shore higher than in other states, in each of which their outline is the same. Fields lying between river-bank and village dark green. Very high angular mountain, printed in blue from graded colour-block only, in background ; yellow sky on horizon, changing to black at top ; also found with crimson sky, changing to purple at top. Red Hoyeido seal below Hiroshige's signature.
State 2. Three coolies and two travellers on near shore ; sixteen figures on further shore against thirteen in the previous state. Fields a lighter shade of green, which is graded off into mist lying over the village, an effect not always found in the previous state. Deep blue mountains in background from colour-block only, with four sharp peaks ; blue sky on horizon, changing to crimson at the top. Red Hoyeido seal.
State 3. Practically the same as the foregoing, with three coolies and two travellers on near shore. Mountains in background more rounded in outline than in the last state, and rising rather higher ; sky crimson.
State 4. Two travellers and two coolies on near shore ; fields green ; yellow and orange mist lying over village; smaller round-topped, blue mountain in background, and another printed in reddish tint in the further distance in centre of picture ; crimson sky on horizon, changing to purple at top. Hoyeido seal. The most interesting point about this state is the signature, which is written in a totally different script, and must be an early one either of Hiroshige II or some other pupil. This fact appears to have led Mr. Happer to consider this state (which he calls the second) really the earliest one of the four, but the full script, Hiro shige gwa, is quite unlike even the earliest form used by Hiroshige himself, such as appears on his figure-studies (vide our illustration at Plate 7).
Plate 11. Hakone. A high peak, round the base of which, through a gorge, a daimyo's cortege is wending its way ; on the left the Hakone Lake, with Fuji in the distance. The peak is drawn in a peculiar angular manner, almost cubist in effect, which detracts somewhat from this view.
Plate 12. Mishima. Travellers setting forth in the mists of early morning, one on horseback and the other in a kago. A charming mist effect, such as Hiroshige knew so well how to render.
The first issue of this plate may be distinguished from later issues by having the clump of trees, huts, etc., printed in graded black and grey ; in later issues they are blue. One of the favourite plates of the set.
Plate 13. Numazu. Travellers walking along the river bank, lined with trees, towards the village ahead, under a huge full moon in a deep blue sky, one of them carrying on his back a large Tengu mask, the mark of a pilgrim to the Shinto shrine of Kompira. Dark forest of trees on further shore of river. Another very effective print, landscape under a full moon being a favourite theme with Hiroshige.
Plate 14. Hara. Two women wayfarers, and a coolie carrying their boxes, passing along by rice-fields, overlooked by the huge snowy mass of Fuji. When the margins of this print have been trimmed, if formerly mounted in a book, the peak of Fuji is cut off. Uncut copies only of this print should, therefore, be selected.
Plate 15. Yoshiwara. A road lined with trees running through ricefields, along which a man leads a horse carrying three women ; Fuji in the distance.
A variation of this plate shows a higher Fuji with the title written across it.
Plate 16. Kambara. A mountain village at nightfall under deep snow, through which three people are toiling, one with his head buried in a half-open umbrella. A very fine snow scene, and one of the masterpieces of the series. (See Plate 9.)
This plate is found in variations in which the sky is sometimes darkest below, graded to lighter above, and in others blackest at the top. The former is, perhaps, the best, as the darker sky below throws into stronger contrast the whiteness of the snow-covered roofs and hills. The black sky is also found carried up higher in some copies than in others, level with the top of the rounded hill in left-centre.
Plate 17. Yui. A fine view of Fuji, snow-covered, from Satta-toge, overlooking Saruga Bay.
Plate 18. Okitsu. View near the mouth of the Okitsu River, looking out to sea, and two wrestlers being carried up-stream, one on a packhorse and the other in a kago. The somewhat grotesque coolies and fat wrestlers are a blot on an otherwise pleasing view of land and sea. All copies of this print which have come under observation have invariably been well printed, with sharp outline and good colours.
Plate 19. Ejiri. View over Mio-no-Matsu-bara, at the mouth of the Okitsu River (seen close to in previous plate), to a hilly coast-line beyond ; junks anchored in foreground in front of a fishing village, and others sailing in the bay.
Plate 20. Fuchu. A woman in a kago being carried across the Abe River ; others fording the stream from the opposite bank ; a range of mountains in the background.
Plate 21. Mariko. Two travellers having refreshment at a wayside tea-house, from which another traveller has just departed, and a woman with a child on her back waiting on them. Beside the tea-house grows a plum tree, just bursting into blossom against the rosy sky ; behind rises a grey hill tinted with brown. The earliest issue of this plate has the placename mis-spelt Maru-ko, and was very soon withdrawn, consequently copies with this error are extremely rare. This print is one of the most charming of any in the whole series, thanks to the effect produced by the beautiful rosy-pink sky, which in some copies is much faded, and in late issues is often missing altogether.
Plate 22. Okabe. A mountain torrent rushing between steep banks and walled in on one side by a stone embankment, along which people are passing. High peaks in the background. In first edition copies the banks on either side of the stream are coloured green, in late issues they differ from one another, the left slope being a yellowish colour.
Plate 23. Fuji-yeda. Changing horses and coolies outside a resthouse. The first issue may be recognized by the very fine grading of the ground from wine-colour to yellow and then green in the background, an effect which redeems an otherwise rather coarse design.
Plate 24. Shimada. View looking down upon the wide bed of the Oi River, with people waiting on its sand-banks to be taken across. An uninteresting plate, being merely a bird's-eye view of a wide stretch of river and sand-banks, dotted about with small figures.
Plate 25. Kanaya. Beyond the wide sandy flats of the river, across which a daimyo's cortege is being carried, rises a jumble of foot-hills, in a crevice of which nestles a village. In the background a high range of curiously hump-shaped mountains, printed in graded black from colourblocks only ; golden sky at top. This plate is similar to Plate No. 20, Odawara, showing the ford over the Sakawa River.
Plate 26. Nissaka. A very steep yellow road in a mountainous district, and at the foot of it people examining a large rock, marking the spot where a murder was committed. In later issues the road is green.
Plate 27. Kakegawa. Travellers crossing a high trestle-bridge over the Kake River, two of them peering into the water below, and behind a small boy watching a kite up in the air, while beyond another, with broken string, flutters to earth. Peasants transplanting rice in the flooded fields, and in the distance Mount Akiba rising above the mists. (Illustrated at Plate 1 1 in our quarto edition, 1920.)
Plate 28. Fukuroi. Coolies resting by a wayside shelter, while a large kettle, hung from the branch of a tree, is boiling ; a woman stirs the fire, while a coolie lights his pipe at it. Close against the tree stands a roaddirection post, and on the right is a bird perched upon a wayside noticeboard ; behind are rice fields, at the edge of which stands the village.
Plate 29. Mitsuke. A large sand-bank in the centre of the "Heavendragon" River, and people crossing the further arm in boats ; two other boats in foreground, moored to the sand-bank, and the distant shore enveloped in mist.
Plate 30. Hamamatsu in Winter-time. A party of coolies warming themselves by a bonfire beside a large tree, a traveller, with pipe in hand, looking on, and a peasant woman carrying a child on her back, approaching from the right. Bare, flat rice-fields, across which stand the castle and village in the background. In the best impressions, the edge of the smoke should be tinted a reddish-brown at the base, and should be slightly gauffraged ; the grass in the foreground should be a light green, carefully graded to a slight tinge of brown at the edge on which grows the tree.
Plate 31. Maisaka. View of Imaki Point jutting out into the sea, and a white Fuji (without outline) in the distance. In some copies the sky is a deep pink, in others it is yellow on the horizon, fading to white and indigo at the top.
Plate 32. Arai. A large ferry-boat, with an awning round it, taking a daimyo across from Maisaka, followed by a smaller boat with his retainers. A high range of hills behind the village on the further shore ; golden sky.
Plate 33. Shirasuka. View out to sea through a dip in the hill, at the foot of which a daimyo's procession is passing ; clumps of trees to right and left.
The slopes of the hill in the foreground, on either side, should be dark grey, graded almost to black at the edge ; the slope on other side of the procession green ; the sea deep blue at the edge of the shore, gradually shaded off to white on the horizon, where it meets an orange sky which is generally found in process of changing to black, owing to chemical change in the pigment, which gives the effect of storm-clouds arising.
Plate 34. Futagawa. A low hill, covered with small cider trees ; on the left a tea-house, at which a traveller is taking refreshment, and three others approaching it.
Plate 35. Yoshida. Bridge over the Toyo River, and in the right foreground workmen repairing the castle.
Plate 36. Goyu. Main street of the village at nightfall and female touts dragging travellers into the tea-house on the right, where one is already resting. The large circle on the wall bears the sign of the publisher of the series, Take-no-Uchi, which is omitted in later issues. On the signboards inside are given the names of the engraver, Jirobei ; the printer, Heibei ; and the artist, Ichiryusai.
Plate 37. Akasaka. The courtyard of a rest-house, in the centre of which a sago-palm is growing ; on the left, guests being served with refreshments, and on the right, geisha dressing up for their performance.
Plate 38. Fujikawa. The head of a daimyo's procession at the entrance to a village, and three peasants making obeisance as it passes.
Plate 39. Okazaki. A daimyo's cortege crossing the bridge over the Yahagi River towards the village and castle on the further bank ; in the background a blue hill, printed from colour-blocks only.
Plate 40. Chiryu. A number of horses tethered near a tree in the fields, where a fair is held in the summer. An uninteresting print, the drawing of the horses being crude and the green of the fields harsh.
A variation plate shows a low whale-backed hill in the background. According to the bound volume issue the state without the hill is the earliest, thus reversing the usual practice, where the omission of some feature generally denotes a later state. Probably the hill was added as an afterthought in an attempt to retrieve, in some degree, the poorest plate in the series. As, however, it is very uncommon in this state, it is possible that the hill denotes a very early impression, of which only a very few copies were printed, like the rare state of Plate 21 with the place-name mis-spelt, the block for the hill being early destroyed and not recut.
Plate 41. Narumi. A woman carried in a kago and two others walking in front, followed by a man on horseback and two attendants, passing two large open shops in the main street, where dyed cloths are sold. On a blue fascia over the front of the nearer shop is the monogram Hiro in the centre, and that of the publisher, Take-no-Uchi, each side of it, omitted in later issues.
Plate 42. Miya. Two gangs of men and horses dragging a festival car (not shown) past the entrance to Miya Temple on a fete day.
Plate 43. Kuwana. Two large junks moored at the mouth of the Kiso River, and others sailing away to sea.
Early issues of this plate have the green and blue of the waves very carefully graded.
Plate 44. Yokkaichi. The hurricane. A man racing after his hat, bowled along by the wind, and another crossing a small bridge over a stream, his coat blown about him. Considered one of the masterpieces of the series. In first edition copies the man's coat is shaded in colour.
Plate 45. Ishiyakushi. A temple in a grove of trees on the left and the village on the right ; behind, a high range of hills, printed from colourblocks. In late issues the blue hill in the background, from graded colourblock, is sometimes omitted.
Plate 46. Shono. Rain-storm in the mountains ; coolies carrying a kago, with a straw coat thrown over it, up the hill, and two others, one with an umbrella, rushing down. In the first edition the title, Go-ju-sanTsugi, and the publisher's name, Take-no-Uchi, are inscribed on the umbrella, but are left out in subsequent issues, an omission which is considered an improvement. The rain is also more strongly printed, the sky darker, and the roofs of the huts stand out sharper. In general effect the later issue is the best when well printed, like the copy here reproduced at Plate 10. This plate is considered the masterpiece of the whole Tokaido series.
Plate 47. Kameyama. A celebrated snow scene of Hiroshige's. Travellers ascending a steep hill-side, under deep snow, to the entrance to the castle of Kameyama. Considered the second masterpiece of the series.
In the best impressions the slopes of the hill beyond the village should be tinted grey to almost black at the base against the white roofs. The nearer slopes should also be graded a slight grey tint. The sky on the horizon should be flushed crimson, gradually shaded off, changing to blue at the top. (See Plate 10.)
Plate 48. Seki. View outside a rest-house in the early morning, where a daimyo is stopping, the retainers preparing, by the aid of lanterns, to proceed on the journey.
Plate 49. Saka-no-shita. Travellers resting at an open tea-house, looking across a ravine to the rocky heights opposite ; blue hills beyond, in colour-blocks only.
Plate 50. Tsuchi-yama. The head of a daimyo's procession crossing a torrent by a bridge towards the village, hidden in a grove of trees, under a heavy downpour of rain.
Plate 51. Minakuchi. A solitary traveller walking through the village, where women are peeling and drying gourds ; in the background a range of hills, printed from colour-block only.
Plate 52. Ishibe. View of a tea-house on left, under a large tree, and travellers watching a man dancing ; hills in background from graded colour-block, the lower part in mist.
Plate 53. Kusatsu. View of a rest-house for coolies, and horses on the road ; coolies passing in the foreground with a kago and a covered palanquin.
Plate 54. Otsu. Three bullock-carts passing down the main street of the village, and an open tea-house on the left ; in the background a green hill, faintly printed from colour-blocks, is found in some copies. (See Plate 10.)
As this state is very rare, it probably denotes a very early issue of which only a few copies were taken, after which the hill block got damaged or destroyed, and this feature was left out in subsequent impressions. This view is borne out by the fact that copies without the hill carry the kiwame seal, usually the mark of first edition copies, though not invariably so.
Plate 55. Kyoto. In the foreground the "long" bridge over the Kamo River, and people crossing over, with the town beyond, behind which rise hills overlooking it, the most distant printed from graded colourblock only, in a reddish-brown tint. The bridge and figures crossing it should stand out well-defined against the white mists lying over the river beyond.