Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) was one of the great masters of Japanese landscape engraving. In 1833, he created a set of engravings that followed the imperial road called the Tokaido, which ran from Edo (present-day Tokyo) to the imperial palace in Kyoto. The road was originally designed for a ruling shogun based in Edo to offer sacrifices to the emperor. The government has established 53 stations along the Tokaido as stopping points for travelers. By the time of Hiroshige, the road was a popular scenic route, marked by a multitude of temples, shrines, shops and hotels, which he glorified with his engravings.
"Fifty-three Tokaido stations"(1834) in the collection of direct access to memory consist of 55 prints, one for each of the stations, plus two for the initial and final points. The scenes are a mixture of the grandeur of a noble feudal lifestyle, realistic images of everyday life and ordinary people, such as merchants or workers, and exquisite images of nature, which was very important for the Japanese.
Hiroshige was familiar with European painting and often introduced perspective into his engravings, although the final effect of his scenes is the distinct linear character of his drawings. Inexpensive at one time, these engravings served as souvenirs for travel or temptation for future travelers.