View looking across Nihon Bridge, Edo, from whence all distances were measured with a daimyo's cortège coming into view over the summit. In the foreground is 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. This bridge was located in the centre of Edo and was the starting point of the Tokaido Highway.
1 Nihonbashi (2nd Edition Print)
"The first prints were published jointly by Hoeido and Senkakudo...... When Take-no-Uchi Hoeido acquired the sole rights, the block was recut to show an assorted crowd which included fish peddlers at the foot of the bridge and the dogs or puppies in the center with some children near them." Hiroshige (The Albuquerque Museum, 1983)
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. Being the first station on the highway, Shinagawa was thronged with travellers coming and going. The road was lined with many teahouses, restaurants and entertainment quarters. The bay, seen in Hiroshige's picture, has been reclaimed and now forms a part of Tokyo.
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. Travellers crossing the river here by ferryboat may have felt they were being carried towards a different world. However, those returning to Edo looked forward to reentering the familiar homeland. This desolate area along the seashore is now an important industrial district of Japan.
View of a street along the top of a cliff overlooking Yedo Bay, and female touts trying to drag travellers into the resthouses. This station was on a cliff overlooking a magnificent seascape of Edo Bay. One side of the highway was lined with two storied teahouses which commanded views of the beautiful bay.The land has been reclaimed from the bay seen in the picture and now forms a part of Yokohama City.
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 wooden hill. At this countryside station the travellers had covered a distance of 34 km from Edo and were well into the mood of travelling. By the bridge stands a restaurant which serves Soba (buckwheat noodle) and waitresses stand in front beckoning travellers to the restaurant.
A man dismounting form his horse in front of an open tea-house, while a waitress stands by to receive him. Those who left Edo in the early morning reached here by evening and spent their first night at this this station. Beyond this station, the highway was lined with finely shaped pine trees.
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. This station was crowded with pilgrims visiting the famous temple at this station, and the neighbouring shrine. The imposing buildings of Yugyoji Temple (established in 1325) stand on a hillside in the background. The torii (archway) leads to the Enoshima Benten Shrine which is dedicated to the Goddess of Music.
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. Here, the Tokaido Highway runs along a low causeway by the ocean. The man running is one of the professional couriers who worked in relays and covered the distance of 489 km between Edo and Kyoto in about 90 hours.
The approach through rice-fields along a narrow road lined with trees, to a curved street of huts, overlooking the sea, and travellers entering the village under a downpour of rain. This station was an isolated village on the coast. From ancient times, many poets referred to this seashore in their poems. Now a motorway has been built along the seashore and passing motorists pay less attention to this historic place.
A daimyo's cortège being carried across the River Sakawa; the background a mass of high, jagged hills, the most distant printed from colour-blocks only. This station flourished in its position at the entrance to Hakone pass, the most arduous part of the highway.
A high peak, round the base of which, through a gorge, a daimyo's cortège is wending it's way; on the left the Hakone Lake, with Fuji in the distance. The Hakone pass was the most arduous stretch of the entire Tokaido Highway. It was steep and difficult to climb, and harboured many roaming bandits. However, the pass abounded in scenic spots and hot spring resorts and continues to attact many visitors.
Travellers setting forth in the mists of early morning, one on horseback and the other in a kago. Situated at the entrance to Hakone pass, this station was packed with travellers all through the year.
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 on Shikoku Island. Dark forest of trees on further shore of river.
Two women wayfarers, and a coolie carrying their boxes, passing along by rice fields, overlooked by the huge snowy mass of Fuji. The neighbourhood of Hara is considered the best vantage point for magnificent views of Mount Fuji. In the Edo Period, travelling on the highway was considered very dangerous and woman travellers were usually accompanied by their manservant.
A road lined with trees running through ricefields, along which a man leads a horse carrying three women; Fuji in the distance. This section of highway was lined with pine trees for the comfort of travellers. Through the trees, Mount Fuji was seen on the left-hand side of the highway and was popularly called "left Fuji".
View near the mouth of the Okitsu River, looking out to sea, and two sumo wrestlers being carried upstream, one on a packhorse and the other in a kago. This flat area was noted for its beautiful view of the pine grove "Mihonomatsubara" highlighted by the pretty seascape backdrop.
View over Mio-no-Matsu-bara, at the mouth of the Okitsu River (seen close in previous plate), to a hilly coastline beyond; junks anchored in foreground in front of a fishing village, and others sailing in the bay. The most magnificent view of the famous pine groves "Mihonomatsubara" could be had from this station. There stands a pine tree referred to in the famous legend "the feathered robe". This station is now the port of Shimizu, the biggest port between Yokohama and Nagoya.
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. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, spent his childhood and retirement years here.The Abe River flows to the west of this station and travellers had to cross in a variety of ways, as depicted in the print. This station has become the present Shizuoka City.
Two travellers having refreshment at a wayside teahouse, from which another traveller has just departed, and a woman with a child on her back waiting on them. Beside the teahouse grows a plum tree, just bursting into blossom against the rosy sky; behind rises a grey hill tinted with brown. Here, travellers enjoy grated yam broth, the local speciality, while appreciating the green leaves and plum flowers of the early spring. Basho, the most famous haiku poet in Japan, praised the scenery and the broth in one of his haiku poems.
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. The road here was enclosed on both sides by steep hills covered with dense forest and thick climbing ivy vines. This was considered one of the most fearsome stretches of the highway.
Changing horses and coolies outside a resthouse. A lively scene of a relay operation taking place under the supervision of the station officials. An official of lower rank enters porterage fares in a record book.
View looking down upon a wide bed of the Oi River, with people waiting on its sand-banks to be taken across. There was no bridge across the Oi River and travellers had to cross it in a variety of ways as is shown in the picture. It became difficult to cross when heavy rain turned the river into fierce, raging rapids.
Beyond the wide sandy flats of the river, across which a daimyo's cortège 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 colour-blocks only; golden sky at the top. A panoramic view of the landscape accentuates the expansive flat plain of the dry river bed. A variety of travellers attempt to wade across the river with the help of porters.
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. Travellers look inquisitively at the popularly called "Night weeping stone" lying on the road. Legend has it that the stone called out to a priest to rescue a child from its dying pregnant mother who had been attacked by bandits at night.
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. A shrine standing on the top of a mountain near this station attracted worshippers from all over Japan who came to pray for protection against the calamity of fire. An old couple of travellers are struggling against a strong wind as they toil to cross the arched bridge. A naughty boy is following them with a mocking gesture.
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 road direction 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. In this vicinity the highway passed through desolate fields and it was uncomfortable to journey along during the summer months. However, this district was renowned for its strong winds in winter when kite flying was a popular local pastime.
A large sand-bank in the centre of the "Heaven-dragon" 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. The name of this station was derived from the fact that people travelling from Kyoto to Edo were able to get their first glimpse of Mount Fuji from here. The rapidly flowing river "Tenryu" flowed west of the station and travellers had to cross the river by ferryboat.
A party of coolies warming themselves by a bonfire beside a large tree, a traveller, with a 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. This plate depicts a wintry rural scene on the outskirts of Hamamatsu Station. The village and Hamamatsu Castle are visible in the distance. Hiroshige always depicted travellers and local people appropriate to the landscape and setting.
View of Imaki Point jutting out into the sea, and a white Fuji (without outline) in the distance. This station was a fishing port lying on the south-eastern edge of Lake Hamana. The Lake Hamana and the Pacific Ocean meet at this point and travellers had to cross this mouth of the lake by boats.
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 on the further shore; golden sky. Travellers made the journey from Maisaka to Arai Station by ferryboat. On the shore was a government barrier station for the inspection of travellers. The compound remains largely intact even today.
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 view of the seascape from Shiomizaka Slope near this station was one of the most picturesque of all the fifty-three stations, with the blue Pacific Ocean framed by outreaching branches of pine trees. A long procession of a feudal lord descends the hill towards Shirasuka Station.
A low hill, covered with small cider trees; on the left at teahouse, at which a traveller is taking refreshment, and three others approaching it. Because of the poor soil in this barren district,only small pine trees and shrubs were able to grow. What relieved travellers from an otherwise monotonous walk was a teahouse which sold refreshments and sweet rice cakes.
Bridge over the Toyo River, and in the right foreground workmen repairing the castle. This station flourished following the erection of the castle in 1505. Here a bridge was allowed to be built over the river flowing west of the station. The town has now grown to become Toyohashi City.
Main street of the village at nightfall and female touts dragging travellers into the teahouse 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. On the signboard inside are given the names of the engraver, Jirobei; the printer, Heibei; and the artist, Ichiryusai. This station was lined with many inns and restaurants. The waitresses were renowned for their persistence in trying to entice customers into their shops.
The courtyard of a resthouse, 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. Most male travellers enjoyed staying at this station for here in the entertainment quarters they could find the friendliest hostesses of the entire trip. Dinners are being served by a waitress and geisha girls are doing their faces for the evening.
The head of a daimyo's procession at the entrance to a village, and three peasants making obeisance as it passes. The most frequent user of the highway was the feudal lord with his retinue. Commoners who came across the procession had to kneel down on the ground to pay their respects and stay there until the procession had passed.
A daimyo's cortège 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. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was born in the castle shown in the prints. The bridge over the Yahagi River, flowing west of the castle, was the largest on the entire highway.
A number of horses tethered near a tree in the fields, where a fair is held in the summer. This area was noted for Japanese iris(kakitsubata). A famouse poet who once passed by this vicinity adorned with irises composed a poem expressing the loneliness of his long journey from Kyoto where his wife remained.
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 the 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. This station and the nearby town of Arimatsu are both famous for the production of tie-dyed fabrics which were suitable for making yukata, the kimono worn in summer and after a bath.
Two gangs of men and horse dragging a festival car (not shown) past the entrance to Miya Temple on a fête day. The name Miya literally means "shrine", and is a shortened word denoting the Atsuta Shrine. It is one of the most important shrines in the country because it holds one of the three divine symbols of the Japanese imperial throne. Now Nagoya City has grown around the shrine to become the third largest metropolis in Japan.
Two large junks moored at the mouth of the Kiso River, and others sailing away to sea. To avoid crossing the numerous rivers flowing inland between Miya and Kuwana, travellers made their journey by boat. The boat trip was reputed to have been enjoyable.
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. Yokkaichi Station was not only a port, but also a thriving market town. The name Yokkaichi literally means 'fourth day market' and is derived from the traditional market held on the fourth day of each month at this town.Travellers had to cross a series of tiny bridge built over the small rivers flowing through low level land along the seashore.
A temple in a grove of trees on the left and the village on the right; behind, a high range of hills, printed from colour blocks. This station developed around an old temple located in peaceful and quiet country surroundings. In the temple, Ishiyakushi, a stone image of Buddha Yakushi was enshrined and it was frequented by many worshippers.
Rainstorm 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. This plate depicts a group of travellers caught in a sudden summer thunderstorm and hurrying towards shelter.
Travellers ascending a steep hillside, under deep snow, to the entrance to the castle of Kameyama. This station developed around a castle town. The keep and gate of Kameyama Castle on a hill towers over the village. And a procession of a feudal lord is ascending the hill.
View outside a resthouse in the early morning, where a daimyo is stopping, the retainers preparing, by the aid of lanterns, to proceed on the journey. Each station was required to maintain lodging houses for travellers. The inn shown is one for upper class travellers such as Shogunate officials and feudal lords. Retinue are making preparations for a feudal lord to leave from the lodging house.
Travellers resting at an open teahouse, looking across a ravine to the rocky heights opposite; blue hills beyond, in colour blocks only. In olden times, the beauty of the rugged mountain ranges in this area attracted many visitors from Kyoto. Travellers enjoyed the spectacular view of the mountain from a teahouse located on the mountain pass.
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. This station, situated in the mountain forest, was known for its plentiful spring rainfall. Against heavy rain, wearing raincoats the vanguards of a procession of a feudal lord are crossing a small bridge spanning a torrential brook.
A solitary traveller walking through the village, where women are peeling and drying gourds; in the backgound a range of hills, printed in colour-block only. This station located in a desolate rural area was famous for its production of dried gourd shavings for use on Japanese dishes. Women are busy making them: one is shaving a gourd, one is helping the shavers, and one is drying the shaved gourd on a rope.
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. This station was one of the most desolate stations on the highway. The road-side restaurant offered travellers rice wine, rice boiled with leafy vegetables, and baked bean-curd coated with bean paste.
View of a rest-house on for coolies, and horses on the road; coolies passing in foreground with a kago and a covered palanquin. The Nakasendo, another large highway which ran through the mountainous region between Edo and Kyoto joined the Tokaido at this station to form a single highway for the remainder of the highway to Kyoto.
Three bullock-carts passing down the main street of the village, and an open tea-house on the left. This station located on the south-western shore of Lake Biwa was the last station on the Tokaido Highway. Being close to Kyoto, there were many popularly known shrines and temples in its vicinity.
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. While decending to Kyoto, travellers could enjoy a panoramic view of the elegant imperial capital from the mountain pass and undoubtedly felt joy and relief at seeing the final destination of their journey from Edo. In those days it was the wish of every Japanese to see Kyoto once in his life.