A GUIDE TO JAPANESE PRINTS - BASIL STEWART
THE SIXTY-NINE STATIONS OF THE KISOKAIDO
The alternative route between Yedo and Kyoto, known as the Kisokaido or mountain road, which ran inland, was also the subject of illustration by Hiroshige in a series of seventy plates, in which he had the collaboration of Keisai Yeisen, who contributed twenty-three of them.
While this series contains about fifteen masterpieces, worthy to rank with the best views in the first Tokaido set, the majority of the plates are uninteresting, some of them indeed very inferior, and the series as a whole has suffered in the estimation of collectors by reason of the numerous poor copies of late issues which are in existence.
While good and even brilliant impressions of the Tokaido series may he acquired fairly readily, with the exercise of patience, such has not been the writer's experience with the Kisokaido views, which more often than not are badly discoloured and faded copies of late editions, whereas copies of the first edition in brilliant condition are most rare.
Apart generally from poor colouring, late issues may also be detected, particularly in the views contributed by Yeisen, by the absence of the artist's signature. It is suggested that the absence of Yeisen's signature on late issues was due to the fact that, as his reputation as a landscape artist was not the equal of Hiroshige's, his views did not sell so readily, so they were issued again without any signature, in the hope that they would be bought as Hiroshige's work.
When the signature on a print became badly worn, by reason of the large number of impressions taken off the block, it was sometimes erased altogether, but in this case this would apply equally to the inscription of the title of the series and the place-name, so that the above supposition to account for unsigned prints in this series seems a sound one.
Views by Yeisen, when unsigned, may be further identified by the different script in which the title Kisokaido Roku-ju-ku-Tsugi ("Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso Road") is written, though this evidence does not hold good in all cases, as one or two unsigned views have the title in the script of Hiroshige, yet by reason of the style of drawing they are generally attributed to Yeisen.
By reason of the large number of plates comprising this series, the set was divided between two publishers, Hoyeido, the publisher of the early Tokaido set, issuing Yeisen's contributions and a few of Hiroshige's, and Ise-Iri the remainder. Second editions of Yeisen's views, however, generally bear the trade-mark of Ise-Iri. Their trade-marks, particularly that of Ise-Iri, are frequently introduced into the picture itself, as upon a horse-cloth, a banner, the shutter or screen of a house, and so forth.
This series was commenced about 1835, and took many years to complete, probably not before the death of Yeisen in 1851, Station 55, KODO, being the last one contributed by him. Only the first edition was issued jointly by the two above-named publishers ; Ise-Iri taking over the whole publication afterwards, when Yeisen's name was suppressed on his plates. Finally, the now worn-out blocks were made over to a third publisher, Yamada-ya.
NIHON BASHI : Nihon Bridge. Sunrise over Yedo. View of the canal, with
the sun, cut by streaks of mist, rising behind the houses, crowds by the
bridge, and coolies pushing a cart laden with bales over it.
As on the Tokaido, the Nihon Bridge, Yedo, formed the starting-point of the Kisokaido, which rejoins the former highway again at Station 69, Kusatsu (No. 53 on the Tokaido), this, and the final station, Otsu, being common to both. In the Kisokaido series, no view is allotted to the terminus Kyoto, that belonging to the Tokaido set doing duty for both.
Station 2. ITABASHI. A man shoeing a horse by a roadside hut ; on the left, the first houses of the village.
Station 3. WARABI. Ferry over the Toda River. A large ferry-boat laden with passengers and a horse being poled across the river, travellers and horses waiting on the further bank ; two herons flying over the boat.
Station 4. URAWA. In the distance, Mount Asama in eruption ; in the foreground, a coolie leading a packhorse.
Station 5. OMI-YA. A traveller carried in a kago along the road on a high bank bordering rice-fields ; Fuji in the distance, snow-capped.
Station 6. AGEO. The Shinto temple of Kamo, with a rest-house outside the grounds, and peasants winnowing rice in front of it. A rather poor plate.
Station 7. OKEGAWA. View of the common ; a woman stripping rice outside a thatched hut, and a traveller speaking to her.
Station 8. KONOSU. A distant view of Fuji seen across fields, and porters passing along ; on the left a pilgrim in a large basket-hat.
Station 9. KUMAGAE and the "eight-cho" (about 5/8ths of a mile) embankment. A traveller arriving at the cross-roads, at the entrance to the village, in a kago, and another, on foot, chatting to him ; on the left, a woman serving two coolies at a wayside tea-house, and behind a horse feeding with his nose in a bucket. On the extreme right a road-direction post, and behind it a shrine, with a stone figure inside and a candle burning in front of it ; the embankment stretching away behind in the distance uphill. (Illustrated at Plate 13 in our quarto edition, 1920.)
Station 10. FUKAYA. A group of women, guided by one leading with a lantern, passing along the street. One of the figures, turning to speak to another, is drawn with the face in profile, an unusual position, but the picture as a whole is uninteresting, and the large figures crude and clumsily drawn.
Station 11. HONJO. Ferry over the Kanryu River, crossed partly by bridge and partly by boat, and a daimyo's cortege passing over.
All the above plates are by Yeisen ; with the next commences Hiroshige's contributions to the series in one of the most beautiful views of the whole set, here reproduced at Plate 13, which, unfortunately, cannot give any impression of the exquisite colouring of this print in all its pristine freshness. The dark fir trees by the river bank are silhouetted against a pure golden sky, over a distant range of deep blue mountains, while above it gradually melts into beautiful wine-coloured clouds. For beauty of atmospheric effect this print is equalled by few and surpassed by none, even amongst those by Hiroshige himself.
Station 12. SHIMMACHI. Travellers crossing a bridge over a stream to a village beyond, and others walking along the river-bank ; in the distance, a mountain range, printed from colour-block only.
Station 13. KURAGANO, by Yeisen. View of the Karasu River at Kuragano. Children playing about in the water by a weir in an irrigation canal ; on the right, a woman seated in an open tea-house looking at another cleaning a tub or cooking pot. A crude design.
Station 14. TAKASAKI, by Hiroshige. A peasant (or perhaps hotel-tout) bowing to a man and a woman, and another, with a fan, running up to them ; behind them a tea-house, built out over the river, and a man seated in it admiring the view. Beyond, the village by the river on the left bank, and in the background a blue mountain range, printed from colour-block only.
ITAHANA, by Yeisen. Travellers on foot passing along the hummocky bank
of a stream, lined with very meagre trees, in the depth of winter. In
the background, over a bridge, appear the first houses of the village,
and a man on horseback approaching it. A very fine snow scene, and one
of the masterpieces of the set, showing that Yeisen could, when so minded,
equal Hiroshige in producing an effective design. This plate,
even in first edition copies, carries no signature, but from the style of the drawing is generally attributed to Yeisen, though the title is written in the script employed on Hiroshige's views. The supposition given above, therefore, to account for the omission of Yeisen's signature from certain views is hardly sufficient in this instance. Mr. Happer suggests as a reason that it was due to Yeisen's careless habits, brought on by his over-indulgence in sake.
Station 16. (From here onwards all plates are by Hiroshige, except where otherwise stated.) ANNAKA. A daimyo's procession seen from above, passing along a narrow road by a few huts at the foot of a steep hill on the left.
Station 17. MATSUIDA. Travellers with packhorses on the road on a hillside passing a large tree, under the shade of which stands a small wayside shrine.
Station 18. SAKAMOTO. Another unsigned plate, but generally ascribed to Yeisen, though the title is in Hiroshige's script, for which reason Mr. Happer attributes it to the latter, but with reserve, A village street with a narrow stream, crossed at intervals by planks, running down the centre between the houses ; a high green hill in background.
Station 19. KARUI-ZAWA. Another masterpiece of the series by Hiroshige. A scene at night outside a village ; a coolie lighting his pipe at a bonfire close to a large tree, while another lights his from the pipe of a man on horseback ; in the distance is another bonfire. The effect of the light cast by the fire on the tree, and from the lantern hung at the horse's saddle on to the faces of the two men lighting their pipes from one another, is wonderful, considering the simple means by which it is produced. In poor and faded copies and in late issues the contrast between the light from the fires and the lantern and the darkness of the surrounding night is very weak.
Station 20. KATSU-KAKE, by YEISEN. Rain on Hiratsuka Moor. Coolies and two laden oxen caught in a heavy downpour of rain and gale of wind. One of Yeisen's best contributions to the series, the rain and wind being very cleverly indicated.
OIWAKE, also by YEISEN, but not signed. Distant view of Mount Asawa from
Oiwake. Another rain scene by Yeisen. (In some issues the rain block is
Coolies carrying loads, and one behind leading a packhorse, under a straight downpour of rain, hurrying along the road round the base of the mountain.
In the catalogue of the print collection in the British Museum this print is described as being in the first state when printed without the rain block, which Mr. Binyon considers was added as an afterthought, to give the idea of distance to the mountain, remarking also that the figures are not drawn as if drenched by a storm. Though, as a rule, the omission of some feature in a design, such as a rainstorm or range of mountains, generally connotes a late edition, the reverse might well be the case in this instance for the reasons Mr. Binyon gives.
Station 22. ODE. Four pilgrims at the edge of a brook running through a moor covered with grass ; hill in background.
Station 23. IWAMURATA, by YEISEN. A very crude scene of blind men fighting amongst themselves, and a dog barking at them ; one of the poorest views of the series.
Station 24. SHIONADA. Coolies resting in a wayside tea-house under a large tree by the bank of a river ; drawing of figures crude.
Station 25. YAWATA. Peasants crossing by a plank bridge a stream flowing past a high bank covered with bamboos ; blue hills in the background, printed from colour-blocks only.
Station 26. MOCHI-ZUKI. A wide road in perspective lined with giant firs overlooking a valley below covered with trees, and hills beyond ; travellers and laden packhorses passing along, the whole scene under a full moon in a deep blue sky. A very fine moonlight view. (See Plate 13.)
Station 27. ASHIDA. The road with travellers passing seen through a dip of a green hill with trees on it, and reappearing at the top on the right.
Station 28. NAGAKUBO. Perhaps the masterpiece of the whole series. A very fine moonlight and mist effect with figures, one on horseback, crossing a bridge over a river ; in the foreground, a tree growing by the edge of the river, a man leading a horse, and two children playing with dogs. In the background are mountains printed from colour-blocks (graded black) only, omitted in late issues, in which also the colour is much weaker. The bridge, the figures crossing it, and the tree, are all printed in dead black, the whole forming a very fine composition and relying for its effectiveness upon the use of black graded to various tones, and the deep blue of the river in the foreground shading off to a misty grey in the dim distance. This view is very uncommon, particularly fine copies of the first issue, and has been much reproduced. (See Plate 13.)
Station 29. WADA, the highest station on the road, over 5000 feet above sea-level. A snow scene, with a view of the road running between steep slopes, and in front a high peak covered in snow.
Station 30. SHINO NO SUWA, by Lake Suwa, famous for its hot baths. Front view of an inn, with travellers refreshing themselves inside, and a man in a tub in the bath-house at the side.
SHIO-JIRI. The frozen Lake Suwa seen from Shio-jiri Pass. Another masterpiece
by YEISEN, showing Fuji in the distance under its mantle of snow, and
travellers picking their way across the cracks in the ice of Lake Suwa
; in the foreground, travellers, one on horseback, on the steep road leading
down to the lake. (See Plate 13.)
In late issues Yeisen's signature is omitted, the monogram Take on horse-cloth altered to Ise-Iri, and no seal in left margin.
Station 32. SEMA.
River scene under a full moon slightly obscured by clouds, with a man
poling a laden punt along, and another behind on a raft ; on the bank
willow trees bending before the wind. One of the best plates in the series.
(See Plate 14.)
Our illustration of this plate is taken from a fine copy of the later issue, in which the slight cloud over the face of the moon is omitted ; the whole effect, also, is somewhat lighter in colour. This view is considered one of the masterpieces of the series, a worthy companion to the wind-storm scene (Yokkaichi) in the first Tokaido set.
Station 33. MOTOYAMA. A large pine tree blown across the road by the gale, propped up on a trestle, and two wood-sawyers sitting under it by a fire, the smoke from which goes up across a blue sky. Drawing crude.
Station 34. NIEGAWA. Front view of a large inn, with travellers resting inside and a waitress bringing tea to one ; a man leaning over the balcony above and looking at a coolie unloading his horse ; on the left an empty kago. Like Station 36 (Goyu) on the Tokaido, this view is interesting for the information given on the signboards in the inn, on which are inscribed the names of the engraver Fusajiro, and the printers Yasu-goro and Ichitaro.
Station 35. NARAI, by YEISEN, but not signed. "View of the shop (for the sale of) the famous products (combs) of Narai." At the top of a steep road a coolie putting down his load, and two travellers going off down the hill ; snow-covered peaks rise from the mist in the valley below.
Station 36. YABUHARA, also by YEISEN. Travellers sitting by the wayside, and two women, carrying faggots, standing under a pine tree and admiring the view from the top of the Torii Pass.
Station 37. MIYA-NO-KOSHI. Another very fine moonlight and mist effect. It is an open question as to which of the two views, Nagakubo or this one, is the finest. Mr. Happer appears to favour Miya-no-koshi. Three people, one a man carrying a child, are crossing a plank bridge over the Kiso River under a misty full moon. Through the mist loom up trees like ghosts, and in the distance the dim figure of a man wending his way to his hut along the river's bank. (See Plate 14.)
Station 38. FUKUSHIMA. The guard-house at the entrance to the village, and a high gate across the road, with people passing through.
Station 39. UEMATSU. A traveller and his coolie standing on a bridge over a torrent and gazing at the Ono Waterfall ; a peasant, carrying faggots, crossing the bridge.
SUWARA. Another of Hiroshige's famous rain scenes. A small tea-house,
built under the shelter of an enormous pine tree, to which two coolies
rush for shelter from the torrential downpour ; in the background, two
travellers, one on horseback, throwing on their straw coats for protection
as they plod along through the storm.
This plate is found in two states ; in one the background is very much blacker than in the other, and the whole effect is much darker.
Station 41. NOJIRI, by YEISEN. View of the Inagawa Bridge spanning a rocky gorge, through which a mountain torrent rushes ; high up, on the left, on a steep mountain-side, stands a shrine, dimly seen through the mist, while through the bridge appears the faint outline of a mountain far off ; the arch of the bridge itself taking the form of the cone of Fuji.
Station 42. MITONO. Two peasants at work in a field and a woman leading a child towards a hill up which the path leads, under two torii, to a shrine beyond ; roofs of huts in the background. A poor design ; figures crudely drawn.
Station 43. TSUMAGOME. A pilgrim, a wayfarer, and a porter passing along the road cut through the hills, and trees overlooking it ; beyond, two other travellers appearing over a dip in the road, and on the hill to the right a faggot-gatherer passes with his load.
Station 44. MAGOME, by YEISEN, but not signed. Another view of the road cut out of the side of the mountain, with a peasant riding his ox along it ; beyond, the roofs of the village in the valley below, overlooked by high mountains, printed from graded colour-blocks. One of the best plates by Yeisen when well printed.
Station 45. OCHIAI. On the right, the village on the side of the hill, and the road through it, along which travellers and porters are passing downhill and crossing a small bridge over a stream on the left. In the background, a range of blue hills printed from colour-blocks only, and in front of them the forest, overlooking the road.
46. NAKATSU-GAWA. This plate was issued in two totally different
states, of which the first is extremely rare,  very few impressions having been
taken from it, probably because the block got burnt in a fire. The first
state is a near view of the village, and three travellers approaching
it in a downpour of rain ; behind the village rises a high hill.
The second state (known as the "willow tree" version) is a distant view of the village nestling at the foot of the hill, across flat rice-fields, and the road winding to it in a series of zigzags ; in the foreground, people crossing a small bridge over a stream, and a willow tree growing close by.
Station 47. OI. Perhaps one of the finest snow scenes designed by Hiroshige, the representation of the falling snow-flakes being extraordinary in its realism. Two travellers, mounted on packhorses led by coolies on foot, all thickly covered with the heavily falling snow ; to right and left two large pine trees, and a background of irregular hills. (See Plate 14.)
Station 48. OKUTE The road across a bleak moorland over the Biwa Pass, and two peasants toiling along uphill with a load of faggots on their backs. An uninteresting design, but often retrieved by good printing.
Station 49. HOSOKUTE. The village lying in a plain surrounded by hills, seen through the arch formed by two pine trees leaning across the road to one another, and people passing under them.
Station 50. MITAKE. An open tea-house, at which travellers are taking refreshment, while outside a man washes a tub at a small stream ; mountains in the background, faintly printed from colour-block, in a dark sky. Drawing crude.
Station 51. FUSHIMI. Travellers resting under a large tree by the edge of the road, and others passing by.
Station 52. OTA. Travellers waiting for the ferry by the bank overlooking the river, down which a raft is passing; blue hill beyond further bank and a pink sky ; three trees by edge of river on left.
Station 53. UNUMA, by YEISEN, but not signed, and one of his best views. On the right stands the Castle of Inuyama, overlooking the Kiso River ; rice-fields and village in the distance beyond the river, backed by hills.
Station 54. KANO. Peasants making obeisance at the approach of a daimyo's procession along a road lined with trees ; across the fields is seen his castle.
Station 55. KODO, by YEISEN ; considered one of his masterpieces. View of the Nagara River, and men fishing at night with cormorants, the fish being attracted by flares hung over the punt from a pole. The last of the views contributed by Yeisen.
Station 56. MEIJI. On a green slope, between two camellias in flower and tall bamboos, a peasant inquiring the way of another, who points behind him towards the village across the fields in the distance.
Station 57. AKASAKA. A man and a woman crossing a small bridge over a stream in opposite directions ; on the further side stands the village surrounded by trees not yet in leaf.
Station 58. TARUI. The head of a daimyo procession entering the town from under an avenue of trees in a downpour of rain, and the natives making obeisance. This plate (reproduced at Plate 14) is interesting from the views of the two print shops on either side of the street, while on the shutter of the one on the left appears the trade-mark of Ise-Iri.
Station 59. SEKIGA-HARA. A woman serving two travellers at a teahouse, while a coolie stands idly by holding his horse and staring at them ; in the background, another tea-house.
Station 60. IMAZU. On the left, a line of shops ; on right, a large tree ; a porter and another traveller passing down the centre of the street which looks out across green fields to hills beyond. Sitting outside one shop is a man lighting his pipe from another man's.
Station 61. KASHIWARA. Front view of the large Kome-ya tea-house, and shops adjoining it, and people having refreshment while their kago carriers wait outside.
Station 62. SAMEGAI. View of the village in a hollow and mountains beyond, and a large tree in the centre ; porters passing on one side, and on the other an old peasant sitting resting.
Station 63. BAMBA. The village street, with horses and coolies waiting about ; on the right, a tea-shop, and a range of mountains behind the village.
TORll-MOTO. A tea-house on the steep side of a mountain and travellers
resting therein, and admiring the view over the valley, river, and lake
(This plate is wrongly numbered 63.)
Station 65. TAKAMI-YA. Two women with large straw bales on their backs and a coolie passing behind them in foreground ; behind them the dry bed of a wide river in which stand the trestles of a washed-away bridge. On the further bank lies the village amongst trees, and hills rising in the background. Two large tree-trunks frame the view in foreground.
Station 66. ECHIGAWA. People crossing the Echi River by a low plank bridge ; a woman leading a laden ox in the foreground and passing two pilgrims, whose heads are hidden in large basket-hats. In the distance hills, printed from colour-blocks, rising above the mists.
Station 67. MUSA. Travellers crossing a small stream by two punts moored end on to one another.
Station 68. MORIYAMA. A street of houses along the highway on one side and a stream on the other ; cherry trees in bloom on hill behind the houses, and in the background a green hill, printed from colourblock only.
Station 69. KUSATSU. Here the Kisokaido joins the Tokaido. People walking along the dry bed of the Kusatsu River.
Station 70. OTSU. View looking down a broad street over Lake Biwa, on which appear the white sails of junks. Travellers and bullock-carts passing along the street. Publisher's and artist's seals appear on various shop-signs.
Otsu station is the last of the Kisokaido series, there being no plate for Kyoto, the view in the Tokaido set doing duty for both.