Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido

2020.03.20(Fri) - 2020.04.08(Wed)



In the seventeenth century, the Tokugawa shogunate constructed five main routes, connecting Edo (Tokyo) to major provincial cities. The most significant was the Tōkaidō route, and thousands of people, from daimyōs to commoners and pilgrims, walked this route traveling between Edo and imperial Kyoto. Long-distance travels became widely enjoyed by townspeople in the early nineteenth century. Various local histories and travel literature were published, notably the Hizakurige or Shanks' Mare by Jippenshaikku, which boosted the popularity of the journey along the Tōkaidō.

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) published a series of printing, entitled the Fifty-three Stages of the Tōkaidō in 1833, from the printer Hōeidō, garnering him critical acclaim. He became widely recognized as the master of landscape painting. The series depicts major spots on the route between Nihonbashi in Edo and Kyoshi in Kyoto. These images stimulated the imagination of contemporary people with fine depictions of customs, travelers and seasons in different weather conditions, all rendered with dexterous expressions in ingenious compositions. Enjoy Hiroshige’s lyrical landscapes to your heart’s content.

A complete set of fifty-five prints in the Hōeidō edition to be enjoyed

Hirosige’s Fifty-three Stages of the Tōkaidō depicts Nihonbashi in Edo (Tokyo), Kyoshi in the Imperial Kyoto, and 53 major stops in between along the Tōkaidō route. Each picture shows iconic images of the locality such as scenic landscapes and famous landmarks as well as people and their customs. The variations in terms of the season, weather conditions and time in the course of a day add dramatic effects to the work as a whole. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy the complete set uninterrupted.

The Fifty-three Stages of the Tōkaidō in the Hōeidō edition - created between 1833 and 34, Edo period

Nihonbashi - Morning 


Hakone - Kosui-en / Lakeside


Mishima - Morning mist


Kanbara - Night snow


Goyu - Traveller and inn maids


Yokkaichi - The Mie River


Shono - Downpour

Hiroshige’s paintings in ukiyo-e style (nikuhitsu-ga) 

Apart from the woodblock prints, Hiroshige was also proactive in producing paintings in the ukiyo-e style, notably ones commissioned by the lord of the Tendo domain, the Oda clan. In the exhibition, viewers will sample some of these Tendo-related brush-paintings by Hiroshige: famous vantage points over Mount Fuji, the Inume Pass and Saruhashi, in the spring and wintry settings; scenic places in the provinces of Edo, Suzaki and Takanawa, in the morning and evening contexts.

Spring view of the Inume Pass / Wintry landscape of Saruhashi, 19th century (Edo period)

Hiroshige and sakura

While making his name through the Fifty-three Stages of the Tōkaidō, Hiroshige also published landscape collections such as the sixty-nine stages of the Kiso route, the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, and the Famous Views of the Sixty-odd Provinces. We have selected his masterpiece illustrations with a focus on cherry blossoms. The Asukayam in Oji, Goten’yama in Shinagawa and other paintings depicting the delightful flowers against the backdrop of the artist’s contemporary Japan, especially in Edo. These works from various points of Hiroshige’s career will accompany the seasonal natural landscape of the museum itself, with over 200 cherry trees in their prime.

Cherry viewing in Asukayama, Edo period, 1855 


Masaki across the Sumida River from the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, Edo period, 1856-58