Edo Kinko Hakkei (1920s)


Edo Kinko Hakkei (1920s)
Print set



Print is Public Domain; Photography is:   Creative Commons License


Note: We have three versions of this set in our collection, all published by the Adachi company in the 20th century: in the 1920s, the 1960s, and the 1980s. Comparing the three gives excellent insights into the changes in traditional printmaking during the course of the century. (We are preparing easier ways to do side-by-side comparisons ... coming soon!)

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Publisher's notes from the original pamphlet:

Edo Kinko Hakkei

(Eight Views of the Environs of Edo)
By Ando Hiroshige

Nishiki-e, large-size prints

1. Evening Snow at Asukayama
2. Night Rain at Azuma
3. Autumn Moon on the Tama River
4. Evening Bell at Ikegami
5. Boats Returning to Gyotoku
6. Homing Geese at Haneda
7. Sunset at Koganei
8. Clearing Weather at Shibaura

HIROSHIGE'S work can be divided into three periods: an early period, up to about 1831 or 1832, during which his artistic language was gradually assuming a definite shape; a middle period, roughly in the decade of the 1830's, when he devoted the utmost efforts to the concentration and perfection of his style; and the final period, after 1840, when the streams of his development were united.

These eight prints are from a very rare set of masterpieces done by Hiroshige in his middle period, around 1838. His style here is particularly concentrated and intense, and his ideas are expressed with the utmost clarity and economy. At the same time they are removed from the banality and triteness which occasionally plagued the artist in his later years.

The series was commissioned by Taihaido, the leader of a group of kyoka poets. Taihaido (a pseudonym) means "Hall of the Big Cup," and the implication is that the man was a drinker and bon-vivant. Few facts are known about Taihaido, but a portrait-painting of him by Hiroshige, exhibited at the Memorial Exhibition in Tokyo, 1918, shows him in a detached house by a pine-tree, in the act of lifting up a sake-cup. He appears to have been a man in easy circumstances, with a liking for wine and the better things of life. It is likely that a friendship of some sort existed between him and Hiroshige.

The first edition of Edo Kinko Hakkei had, in the upper part of each of the prints, three or four kyoka poems by Taihaido and other poets of his group. The prints were published by Kikakudo, but were stamped in the margin, Taihaido-Kaihan (Prints Originated by Taihaido). In order to allow space for the poems, the landscapes were composed a little lower in the format than usual. The balance between landscape and verses was carefully planned, and it is correct to consider the verses as belonging to the composition.

The original edition was printed on hosho (a special thick paper of fine quality) with great care, using lighter colors than were customary in landscape prints at that time. We surmise that these surimono prints were distributed in albums or sets. Some similar sets have survived with block-printed wrappers which were made for them. Presumably the original distribution was limited to the membership of the group of poets under Taihaido: a number that would be difficult to estimate, but perhaps more than twenty and less than one hundred.

Subsequently the publisher issued the series commercially, on ordinary paper, and using more conventional (darker) colors. At that time the original verses were deleted from the blocks, and one new poem added to each of the prints. Prints from the original edition have always been extremely rare, and even prints from the second edition are very rare today.

In the preparation of the present set of prints, which are made on hosho paper and with the same light colors which were used for the original edition, we were guided by the complete set of originals in the Saito Collection in Tokyo (now in the possession of Mr. Shinji Hiraki) and on certain points, reference was also made to original prints in the Tokyo National Museum.


HAKKEI - The "Hakkei" or "Eight Views" was a theme borrowed from Chinese poetry (the "Eight Views of Hsiao-hsiang") and adapted to various scenes in Japan. The conventional eight views were, (1) Snow, (2) Evening Rain, (3) Autumn Moon, (4) Vesper Bell, (5) Boats Returning at Evening, (6) Geese Flying to Rest, (7) Sunset, and (8) Clearing Weather After Rain.

KYOKA - Thirty-one syllable verse, usually employing a pun or some other play on words, but sometimes merely a witty saying. The popularity of kyoka ran parallel to that of ukiyo-e, Kabuki, sumo and certain other popular arts during the Tokugawa era. These arts reached their peak in the latter part of the 18th century, and they declined at the end of the Tokugawa period, in the latter part of the 19th century. During the heyday of kyoka there were many societies composed of kyoka poets, who were amateurs for the most part. These societies, or groups, held meetings and distributed books and prints containing kyoka among the members.

SURIMONO - It was a practice among the dilettanti of the upper middle-class in Japan, from around the middle of the 18th century to around the middle of the 19th century, to exchange as New Year's gifts and for other purposes, prints of their kyoka and haiku poems illustrated by pictures commissioned from prominent artists of the day. Such privately-issued prints occur occasionally in Japanese plebian art during all of the later Edo period.


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