冬の港 (Winter Port)
Description: This print dates from the early 1840s and is taken from Hiroshige's set ten of prints featuring famous ports of Japan - Nihon Minato Zukushi. The location depicted in this print turned out to be a lot more famous than Hiroshige could have imagined, and played quite a special role in Japanese history. Just ten years after he gave us this peaceful view of the port on a snowy evening, this same village was 'host' to a fleet of ships arriving from overseas. Yes, this is Uraga Port, where in 1853 Commodore Perry arrived with his famous 'Black Ships'.
How realistic is this picture; did Hiroshige actually visit all the places that he depicted in his landscape prints? An analysis of his famous set of images of the Tokaido route between Edo and Kyoto showed that most of the locations at the Edo end of the print set were quite recognizable and could be identified fairly easily, but that from one particular point along the route, the pictures become more vague and can't be linked clearly to actual locations. The thesis is that Hiroshige only traveled part-way along the road, and that a number of his designs were drawn from his imagination.
So although this peaceful little port may indeed have looked something like this, we might suspect that a 'modicum' of artistic license was used ... But that, of course, is what we want in a Hiroshige print. We're not looking for a photographic reproduction, we're looking for atmosphere, and there is plenty of that in this one!
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