Processional Tōkaidō

Shogun Iemochi's great journey from Edo to Kyoto.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 5 (1863) by Utagawa Hiroshige IIBujalance Collection

Processional Tōkaidō is the name given to various series of prints inspired by a historic event: the journey undertaken by the shogun Tokugawa Iemochi from Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto. Shoguns were de facto governors of Japan. Although the emperor was the legal governor, he delegated authority to the shogun.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 33 (1863) by Utagawa KunitsunaBujalance Collection

On April 22, 1863, the shogun organized a great procession to Kyoto, accompanied by 3,000 vassals. The official reason for the journey was to visit the emperor of Japan, although in reality it was to reaffirm the shogun's power by getting closer to the divine figure of the emperor.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 23 (1863) by Utagawa YoshitsuyaBujalance Collection

Publishers took advantage of the occasion to produce commemorative prints, not just of every stage of the journey, but also of the shogun's stay in the emperor's court. These were very attractive to ukiyo-e enthusiasts.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 17 (1863) by Utagawa Hiroshige IIBujalance Collection

These series are characterized by their portrayal of particular moments or features of the procession, set against the backdrop of a natural landscape.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 148 (1863) by Utagawa KunisadaBujalance Collection

Sometimes, the procession is represented simply by its banner, or the very end of it, shown on the horizon to evoke the procession that has just passed by.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 141 (1863) by Utagawa YoshiikuBujalance Collection

At other times, it is represented by an element suggesting that the leader of the procession is the shogun, depictions of whom were prohibited. In most of the prints, the procession is incorporated into the scenery as part of the landscape, sometimes partially concealed by a band of cloud, or by the trees along the route.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 136 (1863) by Utagawa YoshimoriBujalance Collection

Famous Views of the Tōkaidō

Famous Views of the Tōkaidō was the first and most famous Processional Tōkaidō. In total, 16 artists worked on it, creating 162 prints that were published by 24 different publishers.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 144 (1863) by Utagawa KunisadaBujalance Collection

The fact that so many artists and publishers were involved in producing this series of prints, showing the shogun's journey in such detail, was clearly political in motivation, particularly as the ancient shogunate system was on the verge of collapse.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 23 (1863) by Utagawa KunisadaBujalance Collection

Kunisada, who was head of the Utagawa school of ukiyo-e art, designed 18 of the prints in this series. The others were the work of other well-known artists from this school, such as Hiroshige II, Yoshiiku, Yoshimori, Yoshitsuya, and Yoshitora.

Processional Tōkaidō, station 138 (1863) by Kawanabe KyosaiBujalance Collection

Most sections of Japanese society were opposed to the shogunate government and wanted a new system.

The fan Tōkaidō, station 40 (1865) by Utagawa Kuniteru IIBujalance Collection

Fan Tōkaidō

Fan Tōkaidō is another series of Processional Tōkaidō. It too is a collaborative work involving 8 artists and 13 publishers. It was produced in 1865 in the ōban tate-e format.

The fan Tōkaidō, station 51 (1865) by Taiso YoshitoshiBujalance Collection

The title of the series was written on an open fan. The most active of all these artists was Yoshitoshi, who created 15 prints, followed by Sadahide, who made 12. Kunisada II also worked on this series, as did Kuniteru II, Yoshinori, and Kunichika.

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