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THIS BEGAN AS a book review of Philippe Delord’s Hiroshige’s Japan—On the Trail of the Great Woodblock Print Master, and it still is. Also, though, this lovely art book recalled several of my own adventures along 東海道, Japan’s Tōkaidō Road. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits about Hiroshige’s Japan, Philippe Delord’s artistry, and my travel recollections.
Woodblock artist extraordinaire Utagawa Hiroshige, 1797–1858, and The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō have appeared previously here at SimanaitisSays. This time around, French artist Philippe Delord is gifted with a secondhand 125-cc motor scooter and encouraged to trace the Tōkaidō’s 300 miles from Tokyo to Kyoto. Much to our pleasure, he brings along art supplies to illustrate these 53 stations.
A Brief Tōkaidō History. Delord writes, “In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun, had gained control of the whole of Japan. Edo [Tokyo’s original name] became the new capital of the country….” Five principal roads crisscrossed Japan’s main island of Honshu. The busiest during the Edo period was the Tōkaidō, literally the East Sea Road.
Shinagawa. “And here I am,” Philippe says, “on the road, moving along smoothly, sharp eyed, scanning my left for any curiosity worth drawing, scanning my right for vehicles that might want to pass me. I’m getting used to doing everything in reverse because they drive on the left in Japan. Ah, but I’m as light as the wind….”
Philippe’s trip begins in Nihonbashi, a Tokyo neighborhood close to today’s Ginza. Less than five miles away is Shinagawa, Hiroshige’s 1st station.
My Shinagawa. It was back in the 1990s that I used my Tokyo: A Bilingual Atlas to visit Sony in Shinagawa. Wikipedia notes that the company moved north to Minato ward in 2006 and closed Shinagawa’s Osaki West Technology Center around 2007.
Hakone. Philippe says that Hiroshige’s 10th station: Hakone is “where the Tōkaidō touches the clouds…. Higher up, the path of the old road follows the lake beneath cedars more than three hundred years old.”
My Hakone. I’ve visited Hakone several times, including a memorable stay at the classic Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita. This hotel was established in 1891 during the Meiji era, when Western influences were blending with those of traditional Japan.
What with my practice of “early retirement” following press jaunts, I came to visit lots of Japan. Tomorrow in Part 2, we continue enjoying Hiroshige’s classic woodblock prints and Philippe Delord’s wonderful illustrations. I keep recalling my own stops along the Tōkaidō. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022