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53 Stations of the Tokaido

Motif Information
Motif tokaido prints 01.jpg
Rōmaji Tōkaidō Gojūsan-tsugi
English 53 Stations of the Tokaido
Kanji 東海道五十三次
Kana n/a
Season Varies, see below
Seasonal Exceptions Varies, see below
Auspicious No
Motif Type Ukiyoe Prints
This article is also available in: Deutsch

(Also romanized as Tokkaido, Toukaido, or Tōkaidō)

This motif is based on a series of Ukiyo-e prints by reknowned artist Hiroshige Ando. The fifty-three stations of the Tokaido are famous rest stops along the route between the new capital, Edo (Tokyo), and the old capital, Kyoto. Hiroshige (along with many other artists) was so inspired by many of these famous views that he created a series of woodblock carvings, one for each of the 53 stops as well as one for the starting point - Nihonbashi Bridge leading out of Edo, and Keishi - the ending point of the bridge leading into Kyoto.

The first edition was so successful, and Hiroshige was still so inspired, that he proceeded to create several further series of prints, focusing on different times of year or different features of the area.

These prints, particularly the first series, became so popular that they are commonly reproduced on many items in Japan - artwork, dishware, consumer goods, handbags, and of course, kimono.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

As this is a collection of motifs encompassing a large series of prints, the seasonality may vary. Please take the season of the print in question as well as the weight and fabric of the item into account when deciding when to wear it.

Common Motif Pairings

Often paired together in groups of two or three Stations, items with the Tokaido motif tend to be relatively busy and include complete or nearly-complete reproductions of full prints. As such, they are generally not paired with other items. However, it is not unheard of to see the Stations inserted into cloud-like or print-like shapes on a larger piece such as the hem of a kurotomesode or the back of a haori.

Editions and versions

There are multiple editions of the original prints of Hiroshige's, including:

  • Hoeido
  • Gyosho
  • Kyoka
  • Reisho
  • Aritaya
  • Kichizo
  • Jimbutsu
  • Tate-e
  • Fujikei
  • Two Brushes
  • Pairs

The Hoeido edition is far and away the most prevalent, and nearly all instances of this motif on kimono are reproductions of the Hoeido edition, however occasionally items showcasing multiple versions of the same station do show up. The Pairs edition is notable in that unlike the previous editions which feature mostly landscape views with small naive people inserted as accents, this series features portraits.

Original prints - Hoeido Edition

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

In Literature

There have been many, many books written about Hiroshige and this particular series of prints. The quiet majesty of his work continues to be an inspiration to researchers, poets, and fiction writers around the world.

In Poetry

The Stations that inspired the prints (as well as the prints themselves) have inspired a significant amount of poetry of many varieties. Reiko Chiba has assembled a compilation entitled Hiroshige's Tokaido in Prints and Poetry that assembles some of the best.

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions




Image Credits

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: Diane Quintal (Moonblossom (IG Username))
Contributor/s: Michelle Winberry (BikaBika (IG Username))