Hiroshige I Utagawa, Tago Bay and Miho no Matsubara, Tokaido Road


Artist: Hiroshige Ando (1797-1858)
TItle: 19. Ejiri. Tago Bay and Miho no Matsubara.
Series: The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road
Publisher: Tsutaya Kichizo
Date: 1855
Dimensions: 24.7 x 36.3 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print. 


‘O sky-coursing breezes, close with your breath
the passageways through the clouds!
Let the angel maiden linger a while
here by the pinewood, to show us spring
touching Miho Cape’


Famed for its white sandy beaches and dramatic coastal pine trees, the eighteenth post station of Ejiri along the road connecting Kyoto to Edo was the site of a famous legend. According to the tale, a fisherman named Hakuryo chanced upon the sight of an angel on the shore of Miho no Matsubara. Entranced by the beauties of the cape, the angel was compelled to bath in its blue waters, removed her hagoromo (feather mantle) and placed it on a pine tree. Hakuryo seized the unattended robe for himself but was stopped by the pleas of the angel: without the feather mantle she could not return to heavens again. The fisherman used the mantle as a ransom in exchange for a dance. Her performance left the fisherman enraptured. He returned the mantle and the angel flew ‘over the mountain of Ashitaka, the high peak of Fuji… mingling with the mists of heaven; now lost to sight’.

Hiroshige I Utagawa (1797 - 1858)

Hiroshige I Utagawa was a woodblock print artist best known for his landscape prints and considered as one of the greatest Japanese artists in ukiyo-e history to have influenced Western impressionists, such as Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), he started sketching from an early age and was later accepted into Toyokuni I Utagawa’s highly successful studio mostly under the guidance of Toyohiro Utagawa (1773-1828), from whom he would adopt his art name. He also took nanga painting lessons that had a great influence on his later work.

In 1831 his first landscape series ‘Famous Places of The Eastern Capital’ (Toto Meisho) was published and the following year Hiroshige passed on his family responsibilities to his relatives to dedicate his entire energy to printmaking. In 1832, it is said that Hiroshige was appointed by Bakufu, the feudal government of Japan, to accompany an official procession from Edo to Kyoto along the Tokaido road. The artist made many sketches during this journey, resulting in the production of his most acclaimed series ‘Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road’, although some of the designs are based on older available images. To be noted that it was rare for an artist (and regular people in general) to be able to travel and sketch landscapes from life during the Edo period, which makes some scholars believe that Hiroshige depicted most scenes entirely from his imagination.

The ten-year period of 1833-1843 is thought to have been Hiroshige’s most developed and innovative time as an artist. A lot of series that were produced during this time, such as ‘Sixty-nine Stations of Kisokaido Road’, ‘Eight Views of Omi’ and ‘Famous Places of Kyoto’, would lead to the peak of his career when he produced the ‘Famous Views of the Sixty-odd Provinces’, ‘Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji’ and his last great series, ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’. In addition to his landscape prints, Hiroshige also designed kacho-ga (pictures of birds and flowers), bijinga (pictures of beautiful women), yakusha-e (pictures of actors), warriors and historical subjects.

Hiroshige’s prints are particularly sought for their perspective and excellent bokashi (colour gradation). Careful overprinting and shading of colours bring to life many natural elements such as the sky or water, rocks and mountains. An appreciation for wood pattern can also be noted in Hiroshige’s prints, with certain designs showing a unique texture and an organic quality deeply cherished by collectors. As many other reputable artists, he also had many students, some of the most famous being Hiroshige II Utagawa and Hirokage Utagawa.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Vertical)
ArtistHiroshige I Utagawa (1797 - 1858)
Size24.7 x 36.3 cm
Condition ReportBinding holes and pinholes along the left margin. Paper partially thinned next to the yellow cartouche.
SeriesThe Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido::Hiroshige I Utagawa
publisherTsutaya Kichizo:1820-1890