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53 Views of the Tokaido

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The series "53 Stages of the Tokaido" produced by Utagawa Hiroshige and published by the Hoeido printing house in 1833-34 has become so well known, both in Japan and overseas, that many would assume that it was both a unique and an original work. However, Hiroshige was actually just adding his own version to what had, by that time, already become a well-worn theme. In fact, Hiroshige himself produced about eight separate collections of prints showing the 53 stations along the ancient highway between Edo and Kyoto (though the first of these series remains his most well-known), and at least a dozen other ukiyoe artists produced series of their own.

Katsushika Hokusai, for his part, drew four separate "Tokaido" series during his lifetime, though some of them are very rough and incomplete, suggesting that they were done simply as theme studies, and perhaps printed later by printing houses hoping to cash in on his fame. None of these ever attained the fame or popularity of his "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji", but they are perhaps better representations of Hokusai:s greatest talent, which was depicting the common people of Edo-era Japan.

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