53 Stations of the Tokaido (Meiji)


53 Stations of the Tokaido (Meiji)
Print set

Ando Hiroshige
Fujisawa Mankado


Print is Public Domain; Photography is:   Creative Commons License


This is one of the more special items in our collection. Many reproduction sets of the famous Hiroshige Tōkaidō series have been made over the years, but this is (perhaps) the earliest one we have, being firmly dated at Meiji 39 (1906).

The prints are described in the accompanying material as 'e-hagaki' (picture postcards), but they are actually quite a bit smaller than a typical Japanese postcard. The width of the image area is 12cm, just about 1/3 of the originals - which were about 35cm. (Japanese postcards are 15cm in the long dimension.)

The delicacy of the carving is simply stunning. Check in the 'Additional images' below to see a sample shown with a US dime for comparison. The people in that image have facial expressions ... incredible. And it's not just the scale of the carving; it's the overall taste of each and every line ... Those us who are trying to do this kind of work today just gape at these prints in amazement ...

But it's not just the carving; the printing too is extraordinarily fine. Compared with modern work (anything in the post-war period), the printers have made a wonderful balance in their tones and tints, and when you stand back and look at some of these prints in a group - like you see in the page of thumbnail images here - the overall balance of the entire set is such a joy. This is of course partly because of the toning of the paper from the more than a century since they were made, but even when they were new, there would have been such a balance in place. This effect is partially spoiled now because some pigments have aged at different rates than others - the dark Prussian Blue, being more 'fast' than many of the others, is now generally too strong and dark in effect.

The publisher at that time seems to have been quite proud of their achievement, going by this 'blurb', included on the inside cover of the set packaging "These print postcards were created with the assistance of photographic reductions from prints of the original era, and as such, differ from them not at all. This is very different from other similar products, and is a unique feature of our products."

It is also interesting to note that the publisher - a Kyoto company - still exists, and show on their website photos of what seem to be blocks from this series. They don't seem to be making woodblock prints any more, but we would sure like to look closely at those blocks, so intend to investigate this as soon as we get a chance ...

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This set of prints was featured in a pair of 'David's Choice' YouTube videos in October of 2020.

Additional Images

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