12 Beautiful Works Of Art Offer A Vivid Glimpse Into Japan's Past
Beautiful works of art show a vivid glimpse into Japan’s past.
In 19th-century Japan, the tradition of woodblock prints flourished and offered a vivid glimpse into the daily lives of its nation’s people.
Japan Journeys, a new book written by art historian Andreas Marks, brings together a gigantic selection of these beautiful and historic prints to show a stunning look into Japan’s rich cultural heritage.
The Sensō-ji Temple
Asakusa is home to the Sensō-ji Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, founded in the year 645 and dedicated to the Kannon Bodhisattva.
Keisai Eisen, circa 1830s / Gift of James A Michener, 1957 – All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing.
Since the year 941, its entrance has been dominated by the Kaminarimon — or the thunder gate — featuring a massive paper lantern painted red and black.
(left) Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1856. / Pub: Sakanaya Eikichi / The Margaret McMillan Webber Estate; (right) Kasamatsu Shiro, circa 1934 / Pub: Watanabe Shozaburo – All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing.
The Nio Gate of the Sensoji Temple is flanked on either side by two imposing guardian deities. Like the Main Hall which is directly behind it, the gate was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1964.
Utagawa Kuniyasu, circa 1815 / Pub: Enshuya Matabei / Bequest of Louis W. Hill Jr. – All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing
The Ikaho Spa
Ikaho is a hot spring resort in the center of Gunma Prefecture, located near the foot of Mount Haruna. In this 1883 print by artist Toyohara Chikanobu, foreigners share a festive meal with a bath house visible in the background.
Toyahara Chikanobu, circa 1883 / Pub: Yamamura Kojiro / Gift of Dr. Leslie Wilbur, 1994 – All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing
Tokyo’s Grand Fundraising Sumo Tournaments
Ryogoku has been the site of Tokyo’s sumo hall only since 1909, but sumo is said to have started over 2,000 years ago. This 1859 print by the artist Utagawa Yoshiiku shows the grand pageantry of the events.
Utagawa Yoshiiku, circa 1859 / Pub: Maruya Tetsujiro / National Diet Library – All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing
Shops and Trades
In the seventeenth century, cities like Edo and Osaka developed specific areas that were related to a certain trade. The print on the far left depicts a night view of Saruwaka-machi, where the government ordered all Edo kabuki and puppet theaters to relocate after a fire in 1841. On the far right, Manzai dancers, traditionally part of New Year’s festivities, are passing a dry goods store in the Suruga District in Edo. The middle picture shows a line of stores belonging to Mitsue Echigoya, a successful textile business and money broker.
(Left) Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1856 / Pub: Sakanaya Eikichi / The Margaret McMillan Webber Estate; (center) Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1856 / Pub: Sakanaya Eikichi / Gift of Louis W. Hill Jr.; (right) Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1858 / Pub: Tsutaya Kichozo
The Musashiya Restaurant In Ushijima
The customer seated in this famous Ushijima restaurant is believed to be the artist himself, Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). He’s playing a popular parlor game of the time called Ken.
Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1838–40 / Pub: Fujiokaya Hikotaro / Gift of Louis W. Hill Jr. – All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing
Tokyo’s Takanawa Station
Today’s Shinagawa Station used to be called the Takanawa Station until 1924 when it was renamed. This 1872 print by artist Ikkei, depicts a steam train arriving at the station as a horse-drawn carriage passes over the bridge above the tracks.
Ikkei, circa 1872 / Pub: Tsutaya Kichizo / Collection of Paulette and Jack Lantz — All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing.
The Kawachiya Restaurant at Yanagi Bridge in Ryogoku
This famous restaurant was known as a venue for literati and art gatherings. It was also widely revered for its breathtaking view of the Sumida River from its second floor.
Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1838–1840 / Pub: Fujiokaya Hikotaro / Gift of Louis W. Hill Jr. – All Captions and Images via Tuttle Publishing.
To view all of the cultural landmarks featured in Japan Journeys, be sure to pick up your copy at tuttlepublishing.com.