"Tokaido 53 Stations (Hara)," Utagawa Hiroshige (Date Unknown)
Tokaido 53 Stations (Hara)
Men and beasts of burden walk bearing their goods. Others chat and hawk their wares. The bustling market shows the daily labors and trials of farmers and merchants, peacefully surrounded by the looming scale and vertical monumentality of Mount Fuji. Tents are visible on the other side of a rich green field, showing a community that cultivates the land and lives in close contact with it. This is a hub of commerce and interchange, but one still deeply connected to the land. People of all kinds come together to trade the fruits of their labor. This was common on the Tokaido, a highly important coastal road that acted as a place for people of all social statuses to travel and do their business. Because the Tokaido was typically traversed by foot, periodic rest stations were constructed. The 53 stations of the Tokaido were popular landmarks, and they proved a popular subject in the arts, as they provided a useful framework for showing their country's rich culture and natural beauty. Utagawa Hiroshige was a ukiyo-e printmaker who specialized in landscapes and worked largely within the woodblock medium. His additions of familiar, gentle scenes of pastoral life to larger-than-life scenes of mountains and rolling hills give a sense of power and scale to the majesty of nature. He achieved popular acclaim for his series of 55 prints on the subject of the Tokaido. After the success of his first series, he created a number of other variations on the theme. This print, representing the 13th station, in Hara, is from a later series of prints, notable for being in portrait orientation, whereas Hiroshige’s earlier Tokaido prints were in landscape format.