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Johnson Collection of Japanese Prints

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Ando Hiroshige (aka Hiroshige), Japanese, (1797–1858)
Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido: Station 8, Hiratsuka, c. 1833-1852
Ink on Paper
8 15/16 in. x 13 7/16 in. (22.7 cm x 34.13 cm)


Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. James W. Johnson
Accession Number: 2020


Marks
Seals in the upper left and upper right.

Medium
Colored ink on off-white paper; woodblock print.

Object Description
Color woodblock print with an image of figures of their way across a path through a paddy field, in the Hirtsuka province in Japan.

Hiratsuka is located 7 miles from Fujisawa. Although, like cat. 111, this composition also employs a semicircular scheme with the main road and a prominent mountain in the distance, this design is far simpler, but livelier and more interesting. The round mountain at center background is Mount Koma. And the cone of Mount Fuji appears behind it. The half-naked runner, a hikyaku (flying foot) whose job is to deliver the mail as fast as possible, carries his mail packet on his shoulder. Returning from carrying a traveler, two bearers with their empty palanquin on their backs give way to the runner.
The two pine trees opposite each other at the side of the road indicate the presence of a milestone that directs travelers and displays government notices.
In the Edo period the communication system was well developed. The hikyaku provided different classes for the bakufu, the daimyo, and the commoners. The bakufu's system, the most important, transported government mail, documents, and goods on a fast schedule; runners covered the distance between Edo and Kyoto in sixty hours. The commoners' private mail service was operated by merchants and employed runners and a fee system. This class of service covered the distance between Edo and Kyoto in about a week.
(ref. “Hokusai and Hiroshige,” p.170)

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