TEHRAN — Iranian scholar Seyyed Ayat Hosseini has examined woodblock prints by Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige to discuss social conditions in Japan during the Edo period, which took place between 1603 and 1867.
Hosseini, professor of Japanese at the University of Tehran, conducted his studies from the “Fifty-three stations of Tokaido”, the series of Hiroshige produced in 1833-1834.
Accordingly, the Iranian publisher Parandeh published Hosseini’s studies in a book of the same title.
Hiroshige produced the series in 1833 while traveling on the imperial road called the Tokaido, which ran from Edo (modern Tokyo) to the Emperor’s palace in Kyoto.
The road was originally built for the ruling shogun, based in Edo, to bring offerings to the emperor. The government has set up 53 stations along the Tokaido as stopping points for travelers.
During Hiroshige’s time, the road was a popular scenic route, marked by many temples, shrines, shops and inns, which he made famous through his prints.
The scenes are a blend of the grandeur of the lifestyle of a noble feudal lord (daimyo), realistic images of daily life and ordinary people like merchants or laborers, and a refined depiction of nature. , which was very important to the Japanese.
Hiroshige was familiar with European painting and often introduced perspective into his prints, although the ultimate effect of his scenes was the distinct linear character of his drawings.
Inexpensive in their day, these prints served as travel souvenirs or lures for potential travellers.
The complete series once owned by architect Frank Lloyd Wright was donated to the Dallas Museum of Art by Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus in 1984.
The collection is made up of 55 engravings, one from each of the stations plus two for the beginning and the end.
Hosseini captioned all the monuments, people, objects, and events that Hiroshige illustrated in his woodcuts.
The book was donated by the publisher at the ongoing 33rd Tehran International Book Fair to Imam Khomeini Mosalla.
“Nihonbashi, Leaving Edo” is one of the prints from the series “The Fifty-Three Stations of Tokaido”.
This print marks the starting point of the Tokaido route from Nihonbashi (Japan Bridge) to Edo. Upon close examination, one can see a wide range of characters that make up the scene. There are daimyos (feudal lords), flower vendors, young Buddhist disciples and an array of animals in a bustling display. Sky colors here are a simple and effective way to indicate an early sunrise scene at the start of the journey.
Photo: “Nihonbashi, Leaving Edo” from the series “The Fifty-three Stations of Tokaido” by Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige.