1864 Yoshitora Twelve Panel Ukiyo-e Panorama of the Tokaido

東海道名所圖會 / [Illustrations of Famous Places on the Tokaido]. - Main View

1864 Yoshitora Twelve Panel Ukiyo-e Panorama of the Tokaido


A Monumental Coda for the Tokugawa Era.


東海道名所圖會 / [Illustrations of Famous Places on the Tokaido].
  1864 (dated)     14.25 x 114 in (36.195 x 289.56 cm)


An epic twelve-panel ukiyo-e woodblock print panorama, this work, covering the Tokaido Road between Edo and Kyoto, was produced in 1864 by Utagawa Yoshitora, one of the master woodblock print artists of the era. Published near the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, it celebrates one of the regime's paramount achievements and the 'famous places' (名所) along it.
A Closer Look
Oriented towards the west, the view covers the Tokaido between Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto (simply as 京 here), though Yoshitora eschews a consistent perspective or scale in order to include all the famous sites along the Tokaido. Cities, mountains, waterways, castles, temples, teahouses, and other features are represented in a rough geographic approximation of their locations. These sites include the famous 53 stations of the Tokaido (usually but not always marked with yellow boxes), such as Hodogaya (程ヶ谷) at top-right. Mt. Fuji stands prominently at center-right. Edo sits in the foreground at right, with Nihonbashi (日本橋) and Kyobashi (京橋) clearly labeled, and with Edo Castle, residence of the shogun and administrative center of his realm, appearing at the extreme right of the print.

Across the landscape, human figures are engaged in a great variety of activities. The Tokaido itself is packed with samurai, servants, and other retainers of the daimyo, who demanded the height of luxury on their travels to and from Edo. All along the route, commoners sit by the wayside to gawk at the elaborate processions. At left, within the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, advisors and servants to the emperor, including kuge court nobles, can be seen wearing tradition jōe robes.

On water, a variety of ships are engaged in trade, though many are also enrolled in the daimyo processions. Perhaps most noticeably, a large number of men can be seen pulling a daimyo across the Ōi River (大井川) near center. For security reasons, the Tokugawa forbade the building of bridges on most parts of the Tokaido, and did not even allow ferries to cross the Ōi River, requiring travelers to ford it, a harrowing experience chronicled frequently in literature and ukiyo-e prints of the Edo era. The crossing was considered the most difficult part of the Tokaido and created a bottleneck, often forcing daimyo entourages to wait days or weeks to cross, a major boon to the economies of Shimada (島田) and Kanaya (金谷) on either side of the river.

Though extolling one of the great achievements of the Tokugawa era, this work was produced at a time when the regime and Japan as a whole were in crisis. Some sense of the drastic changes underway can be seen with the inclusion, in the background at right, of Yokohama (橫濱), little more than a fishing village five years prior, but here already a bustling city where foreigners resided and traded in large numbers.
The Tokaido
The Tokaido, literally meaning 'Eastern Sea Way,' was a national highway of sorts connecting the Kansai and Kanto regions of Japan, squeezing between mountains and the coast. It became an important economic engine and cultural symbol in the period of Tokugawa rule, particularly as the Tokugawa Shoguns forced daimyo to travel to Edo regularly (the sankin kotai system). The daimyo, accustomed to luxury and seeking to demonstrate their wealth, patronized an entire service industry that grew up along the sides of the road, including inns, teahouses, and restaurants. In particular, regular stopping points usually about one day's travel apart developed and became known as the 'fifty-three stations' of the Tokaido.

Aside from the political impact of the sankin kotai, the Tokaido aided the cultural unification of Japan. Writers, poets, and ukiyo-e artists depicted the road and the sites it passed, especially Mt. Fuji. Even the language became more standardized because people from different regions could travel more easily on the Tokaido and interact with those who spoke other dialects. In the post-World War II period, the Tokaido Shinkansen, the first modern high-speed rail line in Japan (and the world), basically followed the route of the old Tokaido.
The End of Japanese Isolation
This work was published a decade after American 'black ships' led by Commodore Mathew Perry arrived in Tokyo Bay. Perry had a commission from American President Millard Fillmore (1800 - 1874) to force the opening of Tokugawa Japan's seaports to American trade and diplomacy. For the previous 214 years, Japan operated under Sakoku (鎖国, 'Locked-Country') policies, where limited foreign trade and interaction was allowed with the Dutch and Chinese at Nagasaki and through other tightly constrained channels, but otherwise was strictly limited to prevent potentially troublesome foreign ideas like Christianity from undermining Tokugawa rule.

Nevertheless, some Japanese intellectuals, particularly of the 'Dutch Learning' (Rangaku) School, were aware of developments in Europe and the Tokugawa became quietly but increasingly concerned about foreign threats, moving to exert greater control over the northern region known as Ezo (蝦夷), including Hokkaido in the early 19th century. News of China's defeat in the First Opium War (1839 – 1842) was also a deeply ominous sign.

Perry's timing was impeccable, as the leadership of the Tokugawa was in disarray when he reached Japan, with the aging Tokugawa Ieyoshi dying soon after the Americans' arrival, succeeded by his sickly son Tokugawa Iesada, in effect leaving a regency of Abe Masahiro and other top-level advisors. Abe felt that it was impossible for Japan to resist the American demands by military force and, by the time Perry returned in 1854, decided to accept virtually all the demands in Fillmore's letter. A further Treaty of Amity and Commerce (the Harris Treaty) formalized the concessions won by Perry and arranged for the opening of Yokohama, Nagasaki, and several other ports to American traders. Other European powers soon piled in, demanding similar concessions from the Tokugawa.

The sudden opening of Japan to foreign trade and influence coincided with long-building issues in the Tokugawa system and set off a complete social and economic crisis. Samurai and daimyo in southern Japan, who had been the enemies of the Tokugawa over two centuries before and had never been happy with their rule, sensed an opportunity. Rebellions were launched to 'restore' the emperor in Kyoto, for centuries a symbolic figure only, to a central political role, topple the Tokugawa, and expel the foreigners. By 1868, the rebels had succeeded in the first two goals, but, recognizing the gap between Japan and the West, embraced rather than banished foreign influence, leading Japan down a path of rapid modernization.
Publication History and Census
The twelve panels of this print were drawn by Utagawa Yoshitora (歌川芳虎) and printed by Daikokuya Kinnosuke (大黒屋金之助) in 1864. It is fairly rare, and is only noted among the holdings of three institutions outside of Japan: Harvard University (seemingly a later reprint, as it is dated 'not before 1941'), the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice. Within Japan, it is held by Waseda University, the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the Mie Prefectural Museum, and the National Institute of Japanese Literature.


Utagawa Yoshitora (歌川芳虎; fl. c. 1835 - 1882) was a member of the Utagawa school of woodblock artists of the late Edo and Meiji periods. Little is known about his early life aside from his being born in Edo (Tokyo). He was a student of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, with whom he later had a falling out, possibly due to his 1849 satirical, irreverent print of important figures from Japanese history. After briefly slipping past censors, the print became very popular but was immediately confiscated once authorities realized it could be interpreted as a thinly veiled critique of the Tokugawa (Yoshitora was arrested for fifty days as a result). Nevertheless, he continued to produce prints at an impressive rate, and, like his teacher, focused on prints depicting samurai, beautiful women, kabuki actors, and foreigners (Yokohama-e). His works were displayed at the 1867 Exposition Universel along with those of Sadahide, a member of another branch or lineage of the Utagawa school. Yoshitora was considered second only to Sadahide among nishiki-e artists around the time of the Meiji Restoration. The details of his death are unknown, but his last known work was published in 1882. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Light wear and water damage on some corners.


OCLC 802862022.