Japanese woodblock prints of the Edo Period : origins, routes and destinations for travelers
Higgins, Chelsea Leigh.
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During the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan the color woodblock print became a popular, localized art form among the merchant class of the nation's administrative center Edo (Tokyo). Ukiyo-e subject matter rose to prominence with its interest in depictions of contemporary entertainment, such as beautiful women, the pleasure district, and kabuki actors, and eventually grew to encompass poetic depictions of the nation's landscape. Representations of the popular Gokaidō highways (connecting the imperial capital Kyoto to the new governmental center Edo) in print imagery have thus far been identified in scholarship under the landscape genre. It is my goal to present a new way of looking specifically at these landscape prints that are not only "landscape prints", but can be further analyzed as "travel prints". By taking a closer look at 15 ukiyo-e prints from the Edo period, I have divided the genre of "landscape prints" into three categories of travel prints: Origins, Routes, and Destinations. The goal of this catalog is to bring awareness to the notion that these travel prints highlight valuable aspects of travel culture. I have found that these three categories present unique iconographical relationships among figures, architecture, and the landscape. These relationships can be described as Origins, Routes, and Destinations. In this catalog I have described each print in terms of how it uses the graphic composition as a means for understanding the travel culture through different social spaces of travelers in Japan during the Edo period.