- Museum number
Object: Kawasaki Rokugo watashi-bune 川崎 六郷渡舟 (Kawasaki - The Rokugo Ferry)
Series: Tokaido gojusan-tsugi no uchi 東海道五拾三次之内 (The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō)
Colour woodblock oban print. Ferryboat crossing Rokugo River, pack-horse and palanquin waiting on far bank, Mt Fuji in distance at sunset. No. 3 in 'Hoeido Tokaido' series. 1 of 2 versions of design.
- Production date
Height: 25.70 centimetres
Width: 38 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Clark 2001
The ferryboat is crossing the Rokugo River (the lower reaches of the Tama River) in the direction of Kawasaki, the third post-station on the Tokaido Highway heading west from Edo. This marked the border between Musashi Province, in which Edo was located, and Sagami Province, so travellers from the eastern capital must really have felt from this point that they were leaving home behind. Even in his earliest landscape designs, Hiroshige would sometimes use this compositional technique of a large foreground motif jutting back on the diagonal so as to draw the eye and the imagination into the picture. And so in the ferryboat we join pedlars, and women on a pilgrimage to the Daishi Temple (Heigen-ji) at Kawasaki. A laden pack-horse and a palanquin wait on the far bank to be brought back across and at the checkpoint behind a traveller pays his ferry charge. The last glimmer of the sun is visible in the western sky so all must be anxious to reach their night's lodgings before dark.
It was not unprecedented for an Ukiyo-e artist to design a series showing the fifty-three stopping places (the so-called 'post-stations', 'shuku') along the main highway that linked Edo (modern Tokyo) and Kyoto. Hokusai, for instance, had done a series in the medium 'chuban' format in about the mid-Bunka era (1804-18) which built on the vogue established by illustrated gazetteers such as 'Tokaido meisho zue' (1797) and the success of the comic novel '(Tokai) dochu hizakuri-ge' (1802-22) about the exploits of the friends Yaji and Kita on the road. But Hiroshige's 'Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido' (actually fifty-five designs) seem to have been a particular hit with the public, enjoying an immediate popularity that has never subsequently waned. The apparently easy, unforced integration of common folk into the lyrical landscape in all its aspects and moods clearly struck a chord with travellers, actual and prospective alike. The project was mainly guided by the publisher Takenouchi Magobei (Hoeido), partly with the cooperation of the old-established firm of Tsuruya Kiemon (Senkakudo), and, perhaps more than any other landscape series, the success of many designs relies on the careful wiping of the colour blocks by the printers to produce effects of gradation ('bokashi').
The completed series was issued mounted in a pair of albums with title page, preface, and postscript, and with a colour printed wrapper that announced them as 'true views' ('shinkei'). The preface has a date of the New Year 1834 and it is thought that the series had been published during the previous two years. It is traditionally said that the genesis for the project was a journey that Hiroshige is supposed to have taken down the Tokaido Highway in the early Tempo era (1830-44) as part of an official Shogunal delegation to Kyoto to present a ceremonial horse to the Emperor. But this was not recorded until some sixty years after the event, when Iijima Kyoshin published the brief account told him by Hiroshige's pupil Hiroshige III (1843-94) (Iijima Kyoshin, 'Utagawa Hiroshige den', in 'Ukiyo eshi Utagawa retsuden', 1894; revised edn by Tamabayashi Seiro [Haruo], Tokyo, Hobo Shobo, 1941, pp. 211-15). In recent years scholars have become increasingly sceptical as to whether Hiroshige actually made the journey under such circumstances and at that time.
'Ukiyo-e taikei, vol. 14: Tokaido gojusan-tsugi no uchi'. Tokyo, Shueisha, 1975, no. 3.
'Meihin soroimono ukiyo-e'. vol. 11, Tokyo, Gyosei, 1991, no. 3.
White, Julia, et al. 'Hokusai and Hiroshige: Great Japanese Prints from the James A. Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts'. San Francisco, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1998, no. 106.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001, 11 May-29 Jul, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number