Hiroshige Tokaido (image)
Panorama of the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, by Hiroshige. UBC Tokugawa Maps Collection

Attributed to the renowned ukiyo-e (lit. “pictures of the floating world”) and landscape artist, Andō Hiroshige (1797 – 1858), this beautiful ten-panel woodblock print displays the breadth of the Tōkaidō from Edo in the east to Kyoto in the west. Along the way, it marks the fifty-three stations of the famous road (in red), as well as notable landmarks, such as the Ōi River (in yellow) and—of course—Mt. Fuji. These also served as the basis of Hiroshige’s masterpiece woodblock print series, Tōkaidō gojūsantsugi (The Fifty-Three States of the Tōkaidō), published in 1833-34 after an inspiring journey along the road the year prior.

There are so many things to talk about in this map, and it is my hope to describe as much as I can. I will start at the visual level, briefly discussing the overall style of the art before moving on to the events and activities happening within the map, and then highlighting a few of the cultural cues that link this map with Hiroshige’s original series. Following that, I will talk about Hiroshige himself and look deeper into the level of artists and publishers. One of the fascinating things I found about this map was the uncertainty of its date of publication, which I think has much to do with seals, names, and signatures. The latter part of this post will be dedicated to parsing through that information.


The Style

Genji Monogatari Emaki.jpg
Scene from the 12th century Genji Monogatari Emaki; an example of yamato-e and emaki style. Wikipedia

One thing that stands out upon first glance is the unusual borders. That is, the map itself is “framed” within an unfurled scroll. This is done because it is a kind of “mimic makimono” in which the woodblock print is designed to look like the emaki (scroll paintings) that were prevalent during earlier eras in Japan, such as the Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura (1185-1333).  A further throwback to those periods are the use of mist and gold-flecked clouds to convey a sense of the ethereal, a common theme in a style called yamato-e (Japanese paintings), which were so named to distinguish themselves from the Chinese-style paintings that were also popular during the time. In conjunction with his typical landscape style, Hiroshige injects a subtle surrealism into this map.


What Does the Map Show?

Station 11: Hakone, from the original series
Hakone (Ichiran).jpg
Hakone, from the Ichiran








At the same time, it shows a great deal and yet very little. What I mean is that despite the map’s ten-panel scope, it loses a lot of the finer details that made Hiroshige’s original Tōkaidō series so popular. In the examples given above, one can see how the map is unable to show all the fascinating contours and colours that are described on the mountain in the series print. Gone, too, are the portraits of everyday hustle and bustle that make the series so lively. In fact, commoners are entirely absent from the map.

What it does show is one majestically long procession from Edo to Kyoto of a daimyo and his clan taking part in the Sankin kōtai system. Also known as the “Alternate Attendance” system, this was the required duty of every daimyo to alternate spending time in his own domain and spending time in Edo. While in his own domain, the daimyo’s wife and children were left in Edo, under the watch of the Tokugawa government. The purpose of this system was prevent daimyo from rising in rebellion by: 1) draining their funds by making them compete amongst themselves for the prestige of a lavish display while on procession; and 2) holding their family hostage in the government’s capital city. Originally, it was decreed to be one year in Edo and one year out, but at the time of the map’s publishing it had already been reduced to spending half a year in Edo every two years.

Partial Sasarindou (Hiroshige).jpg
Station 32: Arai
Aoi and Sasarindou (Yoshitora).jpg
Tokaido Meisho Zue


What’s interesting about this particular procession is that it only displays one clan mon (emblem), and it appears to be an anachronism. In the map, the ships have a red flower emblem, but perhaps due to the level of detail, it appears incomplete. However, in the series, the emblem is shown on the sail of a ship in the print for Arai, and is more detailed and closer to the actual clan emblem. Finally, in a map print called the Tōkaidō meisho zue by Utagawa Yoshitora in 1864—which appears to be based off of Hiroshige’s map because of its many similarities—the emblem appears in complete detail, alongside the emblem of the ruling Tokugawa dynasty. It is the Sasarindou (bamboo leaves and gentian blossoms) of the Minamoto clan—the military clan that established the first Shogunate and the Kamakura era in 1185. Nothing in my research has explained why this crest was chosen over that of a contemporary daimyo, or even the Tokugawa, but if I may hazard a guess, it may have to do with a thematic link with the yamato-e art style.


Cultural Cues

Sakanoshita (Ichiran).jpg
Sakanoshita (Yoshitora).jpg
Meisho Zue









One of the things I wanted to look into was how Hiroshige linked his map to his series, if at all. Though the map appears to be a general survey of all the stages of the Tōkaidō, there are a few stations that retain images that feature prominently in the original series.

Station 49—Sakanoshita—features Mt. Fudesute (Mt. “Brush-toss”) in both artworks. In the series, travelers stop at a teahouse to relax and admire the waterfall cascading down the mountain; in the map, someone who appears to be a daimyo with his kneeling retainers take in the spectacle. As the story goes, Ashikaga-era artist Kano Motonobu (1476 – 1559) had set out to paint this gorgeous landscape that he had heard about, but upon laying eyes on the mountain, he became so overwhelmed by the beauty of it that, in a fit of frustration and emotion, he threw his brush over the cliff, unable to paint. And so, ever since, it has been called Mt. Fudesute. Notably, it is only a minor landmark in Yoshitora’s version, off to the side and largely ignored by the passers-by.

Nissaka (Ichiran).jpg
Nissaka (Yoshitora).jpg
Meisho Zue









Station 26—Nissaka—features the yonaki-ishi (“Night-weeping Stone”) of Sayo-no-nakayama. This one is a tale of murder and revenge, as it refers to the tale of Sayohime, who lends her name to the rock. Legend has it that Sayohime, a young devotee of the bodhisattva Kannon, was traveling alone at night and was ambushed and murdered by a mountain bandit, her blood splattering against the stone. Sayohime was pregnant at the time, and though she died, her devotion for Kannon summoned her in the form of a Buddhist monk, who was able to save the baby. The baby boy grew up to be a fierce warrior, and through his diligence was able to hunt down his mother’s murderer and avenge her. Yet, despite this, the stone continues to weep at night. And to this day, the stone continues to reside in a shrine at Sayo-no-Nakayama. Interestingly, the Night-weeping Stone seems to make its first appearance in popular culture in Hiroshige’s prints, as older map series, like the Tōkaidō bungen no zu make no reference to it. After Hiroshige, the stone appears to remain in the cultural consciousness of the Tōkaidō, and makes its first (to my knowledge) appearance in English in a book entitled We Japanese from 1934.

Other links appear in the boat crossing at Arai (briefly touched on above with regards to the Minamoto crest), and the Shinto torii (shrine gate) at Miya which denotes Atsuta Shrine, one of the most popular during the era.



All that being said, this map is strange. The strangeness is the reason why I’ve delayed in discussing Hiroshige himself until this point, for it deals with authorship and publication dates. Adding to the confusion is that this map seems to be rather rare. When searched for in English, the results return the UBC map as its source; when searched for in Japanese, the “Ichiran” denotes something more like a “list,” after which it would show the stations of Hiroshige’s original series. However, I was able to find at least one other extant copy of the Ichiran, and it resides in a bookstore in Nagoya called Yamaboshi.

Yamaboshi Tokaido.jpg
The Ichiran at the Yamaboshi Bookstore in Nagoya

In the metadata for the map in the UBC database, it lists two different dates of publication—1839 and 1854 (Yamaboshi also asserts a date of 1857)—and I wanted to find out why this was the case, and if it could be discerned through the information presented in the map itself. It also presented the publisher as Tōkei out of Edo. This required looking at all the kanji (Chinese characters) on the map, which I found to be an assortment of signatures—both author and publishers—censor seals, and a large red stamp that I am still unclear about. The Yamaboshi map was actually able to help me better identify one of the publishers, as his signature was somewhat smudged in the UBC version. Though I was unable to read almost all of the kanji, resources like jisho.org helped immensely. Following that, four sources in particular informed me about publishers and seals: Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers, and Masterworks, 1680-1900 by Andreas Marks (2010); Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium, also by Marks (2011); Japanese Art Signatures : a Handbook and Practical Guide by James Self and Nobuko Hirose (1987); and Prints of Japan. Below, I will present my findings.


Andō Hiroshige

Memorial Portrait of Hiroshige (called here “Ryusai Hiroshige”) by Utagawa Kunisada. Wikipedia

First, a little bit about the attributed artist himself. Andō Hiroshige was born to a low-ranking samurai family in Edo. The son of a fire warden, he was in line to take over the family business, but he aspired to be an artist. At the age of twelve or thirteen, he sought tutelage under Utagawa Toyokuni, a member of the prestigious Utagawa school and who was famous for his kabuki actor prints. Toyokuni turned him away, for he had a large amount of students already, and instead referred him to his friend Utagawa Toyohiro, who was notable for his landscape prints. Considering that Hiroshige became renowned for his landscape and nature art, this was probably the right move in hindsight.

When Hiroshige’s father died, he was forced to split time being a firefighter and an artist, but in 1822 he was able to leave and pursue a full-time career in art. He started out small, with a few actor and landscape prints to his name, but it was not until 1833-34 that his fame exploded with the publication of his Tōkaidō gojūsantsugi. It was so popular that over the course of his life, he was commissioned to create new editions of the series, such as his collaborations with fellow Utagawa artists Kunisada and Kuniyoshi. There are over ten different editions, with this map perhaps falling somewhere on the list. His other major works include the Eight Views of Ōmi, The Sixty-Nine Stations of the Nakasendō, and One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, and he perhaps designed over 4000 prints in all.

In the 1840s, Hiroshige adopted a son named Suzuki Chinpei, whom he also taught as one of his students and gave the name Shigenobu. With a style similar to his teacher, he went on to become Hiroshige’s most successful pupil. After Hiroshige’s death in 1858 due to a cholera outbreak in Edo, Shigenobu married his teacher’s daughter, thus inheriting the name and becoming Hiroshige II. He was fond of collaboration, often working with Kunisada like his predecessor to produce print series.




As an artist, Hiroshige assumed several different names. Andō was his family name, but his association with the Utagawa school also allowed him to use the Utagawa name, as well as the title Ichiryūsai. What is interesting about this map is that he signs it with the full “Ichiryūsai Hiroshige,” which seems to be a rarity in his more known prints. Typically, he will sign with simply “Hiroshige” with a variance of seals—one of which is an “Ichiryūsai seal”. The “Ichiryūsai” in writing apparently appears more often in his earlier works. The last two characters “zu-e”or “zu-ga,” here stand for “picture drawn by…”

Alone this would not cause confusion—maybe it simply struck him to use the full signature for this particular piece—but it should be noted that when Hiroshige passed on his name, he also passed on his signature. Hiroshige II also signed his works in exactly the same way (both “Ichiryūsai” and “Hiroshige”) until he took on the artist name Risshō in the late 1860s after his divorce. Considering the possible dating of this work, as well as the similarity of styles and works, it is entirely possible that this is a Hiroshige II print, and not a Hiroshige I.


Date Seals

Date seal.jpg

If the date is not explicitly printed on the work itself, one of the ways of determining the date of a print is to look at its seals. From 1790 until the Meiji era, decree from the government required that all woodblock prints be inspected and stamped with a seal. This was to do with cutting down on the extravagance of ukiyo-e prints as the government wanted the populace to stay away from more “immoral” things. There were four main types of seals with their own distinct shapes and symbols: Kiwame (“approved”), Aratame (“examined”), Gyoji and Nanushi. Seals could include composites of symbols, or come in pairs that relayed the same information. Dates were denoted by numerals for months and zodiac signs for years. The Gyoji and Nanushi seals carried the names of the censors themselves. In the case of this map, its seal is a composite, with the zodiacal symbol on the right half, with the numeral twelve in the top left, with the aratame character in the bottom left.

I believe the confusion about the 1839/1854 dating comes from the difficulty in reading the right-hand symbol. Owing to the nature of writing—in that a way something is written can vary due to handwriting or drift over time—it is hard to pin down the exact character that is used. Using a table of zodiac years provided by James Self, 1839 lines up with the boar, while 1854 aligns with the tiger with an intercalary month, which is denoted by an urū symbol beneath it. If it is 1857 as alleged by the Yamaboshi website, it would be the year of the snake with an intercalary month.

From Japanese Art Signatures: A Handbook and Practical Guide
Uru and Aratame.jpg
Opposite page












Looking at the zodiac symbols, it would appear that the boar’s holds the most likeness, putting it in 1839. The problem that arises is that this particular type of composite seal was not commonly used until 1859—a year after Hiroshige I’s death, further lending credence to the possibility that it is a Hiroshige II print. In 1839, oval seals rather than circular ones were in common usage.  Of course, one way to deal with this discrepancy is to consider this map as a reprint of an early edition that was originally created in 1839, thereby utilizing both the stated year and the common seal. Otherwise, this is still a contentious issue, and I implore any readers to share any knowledge they might have about Tokugawa-era publisher seals to help clarify.



Failing a date-check on the circular seal, I turned to parts of the map to try and narrow down the date, which meant looking at the publisher trademarks. Publishers were an important part of the ukiyo-e industry, as they could act as both distributors and commissioners. They could find the pulse of popular trends and commission prints based on those, or else try and invest in growing trends to stay ahead of the curve. Publishers could also commission new editions of old favourites—as evidenced by the many Tōkaidō prints—or keep old woodblocks to use later on when opportunity arose. However, on the whole, publishers are not as well documented. There were over a thousand different publishers, of varying successes and lifespans, in Edo, Osaka and Kyoto. Of those, perhaps two hundred are known about in some detail, and of those maybe a few dozen have more information. Luckily, as Hiroshige was a big name in the business, he also worked with larger publishers, and as such I was able to identify the trademarks on the map.

There are four publishers named, as well as a red stamp that may denote a fifth publisher or something else entirely.

Yamamotoya Heikichi (Ichiran).jpg

The first publisher trademark appears on the first panel, and it belongs to Yamamotoya Heikichi from the firm Eikyūdō. The firm was established in 1805 by Yamamoto Kyūbei, and Heikichi took over in 1812. He was one of the top-5 most active publishers of his time, and worked with many of the prominent Utagawa artists, including Hiroshige. With Hiroshige, he published the Tōtō Meisho (Famous Places of the Eastern Capital) and Ōmi Hakkei (Eight Views of Ōmi). Heikichi continued until 1865, upon which his son inherited his name and took over.

Kagaya Kichibei.jpg

The second publisher’s seal is on the fourth panel, belonging to Kagaya Kichibei, who took over the Seiseidō firm in 1851. He made a name in publishing actor prints, as well as prints from the Nise Murasaki inaka Genji (A Country Genji by a Fake Murasaki), though he appears not to have worked with Hiroshige I. He is recorded, however, working with Hiroshige II. Kichibei’s son took over the firm in 1862 as Kichibei II, continuing to work with Hiroshige II, as well as Utagawa Yoshitora.

FujiKei Han.jpg

The third publisher appears on the sixth panel and it reads (from right to left) FujiKei Han. FujiKei is the abbreviated form of Fujiokaya Keijirō, a publisher from Shōrindō that was active starting from 1843. Han is short for hanmoto (“publishing house”). He began in the business with Utagawa Kunisada’s warrior prints, and from there went on to work with many of the other big names. He published many things with Hiroshige, such as the series A Collection of Famous Restaurants in the Captial in 1852-53, as well prints about Chūshingura (The Treasury of the Loyal Retainers) and the Bijin Tōkaidō (Beautiful Women on the Tōkaidō). Keijirō worked extensively with Hiroshige, but after his death he worked on a number of prints with Hiroshige II as well.

Muraya Tetsujiro.jpg

The fourth publisher appears on the eighth panel and it reads MaruTetsu, which is the seal name for Maruya Tetsujirō. Though it is possible he worked in publishing in the 1830s, he cannot be safely dated until the late 1840s. In Marks’ book, he is also not listed as working with Hiroshige I at all. He is listed, on the other hand, as working extensively with Hiroshige II, including a Tōkaidō series of their own.

All four were prominent in their day, and it was not uncommon for publishers to reprint using blocks they’d acquired from their fellow publishers. It was also possible for publishers to collaborate on works in order to distribute costs.  Furthermore, I feel that the existence of these four names on the map would also place it outside of the 1839 publishing date, given that the latter three were not really active until afterwards. However, their involvement also causes me to think that this is a Hiroshige II print.


The Red Seal

The Red Seal.JPG

Immediately beneath the signature of Hiroshige is a red square stamp. Commonly, this would be the mark of the artist’s personal seal, but this one does not correspond with any of Hiroshige’s stamps. Barring an artist’s seal, it is also a fairly common form of publisher seal, but again it does not correspond with any hanmoto that I’ve come across. It is entirely possible that—out of the hundreds of active publishers—this is one that has slipped into obscurity, but on the other hand I doubt that because of the names of the aforementioned three publishers.

In its upper half, the seal contains the characters that would spell out “Tōkei” (the assumed publisher listed in the metadata) if read horizontally and from right to left. However, as far as I know, such seals are typically read [top-right; bottom-right; top-left; bottom-left]. In that order, the kanji are: “” (East/Edo); “Yamato;” “kei/to/miyako” (capital) and “ga/e” (picture). Ultimately, I do not understand the proper way to read this seal.

However, I will also posit here a possible explanation based on my own assumptions. The first assumption is that not all red stamps are artist/publisher signatures. When looking at the original Tōkaidō prints, there are two different kinds of red characters. One is a publisher stamp, positioned near Hiroshige’s signature; the other appears next to the kanji for the title of the print. This red text is more like a descriptive subtitle. For example, in the print for Nissaka, the red subtitle is “Sayonakayama,” which describes the scene at the station. Therefore, what if the red seal on the Ichiran is also a descriptive subtitle? The second assumption is that the text on the seal is also read horizontally, from right to left. There is precedent on the map itself for the use of horizontal reading in the publisher signatures.

The result is this: “Tōkei yamato-e,” which, when read like this, becomes a descriptive title for the map itself. It would be something like “yamato-e-style scene from Edo to Kyoto,” and would once more thematically link it to the emaki art of old.

Of course, this is all a shot in the dark, and once again I implore any readers to provide information about this seal if possible.


Final Thoughts

This is an intriguing piece of artwork. From the throwback art techniques, to using an anachronistic clan emblem in a singular daimyo procession, to the links to the original Tōkaidō, to the entire discrepancy surrounding the dating of the map and presence of multiple publishers and seals—there is no shortage of interesting things to investigate. Yet, I find it hard to definitively decide what kind of map it is. Not being an art historian (and with a woeful lack of an artistic eye), I cannot speak to its value as an example of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Nor can I speak to its value as an itinerary, as earlier maps—such as Katsushika Hokusai’s own Tōkaidō meisho ichiran, which shows a dizzying amount of notable places along the road, or the Tōkaidō bungen no zu—are clearly better at relaying travel information.

The Ichiran appears to be intimately tied to Hiroshige’s own Tōkaidō series. Above I described it as a “general survey” of the stations along the road, and ultimately I think it is apt. It lacks the detail of the original series, but gives a broad overview of its subjects. Given that “ichiran” can also mean “list,” it is like a table of contents—a beautiful, expensive and expansive table of contents—serving as an introduction to the Tōkaidō gojūsantsugi. One can imagine it hanging on a wall, with the individual prints scattered around, corresponding to each red label on the map as if it were zooming-in on them.

At least, that’s how I’d have it, given the chance.

Thanks for reading.


What I found out afterwards… (because it seemed a shame to revise everything)

I had finished writing this piece, but some time before that I discovered that I could get into contact with Dr. Andreas Marks, whose invaluable books I’d mentioned above. I asked about the censor seal and the red stamp, and likely because it was late, I didn’t get a reply until the next day. He clarified a lot of things for me.

1) This is in fact a print by Utagawa Hiroshige II, not Andō Hiroshige. This can be definitively proven by the date on the censor seal, which is reproduced in the Compendium—it is the censor seal for the twelfth month of 1863. This means that it is, in fact, a boar character on the right-hand side, and the 1839 date comes from the assumption that it is a Hiroshige I print.

2) Dr. Marks reads the red seal as “Tōto yamato ga,” and it is not a publisher seal but rather Hiroshige II’s. There is still a possibility that it is a descriptive seal, rather than a personal seal, because I do not see how such a reading would lend itself to being something personal. It also likely torpedoes my theory that it is another thematic link to the yamato-e style.

3) In the Compendium, Marks talks about one of the largest collaborative projects of the Late Tokugawa period. It was the 1863 Gojōraku Tōkaidō (Processional Tōkaidō), with 162 designs from 16 artists and issued by 24 publishers over the course of four months. Hiroshige II was one of the primary contributors to this massive series. It is entirely possible that the Ichiran is a part of this project, given the names of people involved. However, I don’t think it changes my final thoughts much about the map. It still seems to me to be a great table of contents, though for this new series rather than the original.

4) I think my post had been slightly biased towards believing that it was a Hiroshige I print as well, given that I refer constantly to his original Tōkaidō. Still, I’ll leave it as is, and it shows a nice contrast between “what I thought” and “what I know now.” In any case, many of the same issues remain, such as the mystery of the Sasarindou, and the “zoomed-out” detail, as well as the cultural cues and emaki style. At least I seem to be vindicated in my curiousity about authorship and dates.


Works Cited

Forrer, Matthi. Hiroshige: Prints and Drawings. London: Prestel, 2011.

Kondo, Ichitaro. The Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido. Trans. Charles S. Terry. 1960. Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1965.

Marks, Andreas. Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers, and Masterworks, 1680-1900. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 2010.

Marks, Andreas. Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium. Boston: Hotei Publishing, 2011.

Marks, Andreas. “Re: About a publisher’s seal on a Late Tokugawa Hiroshige print.” Message to Titus Joel. 13 April 2016. E-mail.

Narazaki, Muneshige. Hiroshige: The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō. Trans. Gordon Sager. Masterworks of Ukiyo-e. Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd., 1969.

Self, James, and Nobuko Hirose. Japanese Art Signatures: A Handbook and Practical Guide. London: Bamboo Publishing, 1987.

The Woodblock Prints of Ando Hiroshige. 2014. Web. <http://hiroshige.org.uk/>

Vedger, Jerry. “Publishers.” Prints of Japan. 2016. Web. <http://www.printsofjapan.com/Publishers.htm>


Contributor: Titus Joel

(Edited by Elle Marsh)


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