The Tōkaidō is perhaps the most important road in Japan’s history. Built in the 17th century, it connected the country’s two powerhouses: it runs from Kyoto, the imperial capital, to Edo (now Tokyo), the seat of the Shogunate. As well as being an important political and trade route, depictions of the Tōkaidō in art in literature were abundant and popular.

The best-known of these is Utagawa Hiroshiges’s series of ukiyo-e woodcut prints, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. Ukiyo-e woodblock printing like this continued to flourish in Japan until the 19th century.

Less famous than Hiroshige is the relatively unknown ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Yoshishige, who produced his own prints of the 53 stations along the Tōkaido – by depicting each station in the form of a potted landscape.

Utagawa Yoshishige’s illustrations, which are dated 1848, appear to be based on actual miniature landscape models, made by the artist’s father. These bonkei (盆景) or “tray landscapes” are miniature three-dimensional depictions of landscapes in miniature. Unlike bonsai, bonkei landscapes don’t typically include living plants, but are mostly made up of dry materials like rock and paper mache.

Here we bring you a selection of our favourites, in a collection we’ll be calling Fifty-three Ten Stations of the Tōkaidō as Potted Landscapes”.











Sources: The Public Domain ReviewJapaaan, US National Agricultural Library
Featured image: US National Agricultural Library, edited by RocketNews24
All images: via US National Agricultural Library