Enjoy Japanese culture with your own original Ukiyo-e art. Utagawa Hiroshige’s “Nihonbashi The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido” reprodued by Ogasawara Gen.

Enjoy Japanese culture with your own original Ukiyo-e art. Utagawa Hiroshige’s “Nihonbashi The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido” reprodued by Ogasawara Gen.

Ogasawara Gen is a creator who works on everything from hand-drawn Ukiyo-e reproductions to animation work.

He presented a digital Ukiyo-e work, "Nihonbashi The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido" by Utagawa Hiroshige, which he reproduced by tracing with a brush and coloring by computer graphics. This work can be freely changed in color for each edition by adjusting the color layers in the PSD file.

About the creator Ogasawara Gen

Ogasawara Gen worked at Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) Design Center as a member of the art team for various programs and was in charge of the background CGs that reproduced Utagawa Hiroshige’s Ukiyo-e.

After working on VFX production for a historical drama and other works, he became independent as a creator.

He has a deep knowledge of Japanese culture from his involvement in the historical drama and the technology to complete the process of drawing Ukiyo-e with a brush, coloring it with CGs, and making it into motion graphics. He has created many works  that combine Japanese culture and technology.

Click here to know more about Ogasawara Gen:

About Utagawa Hiroshige’s Ukiyo-e  “The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido”

What is Ukiyo-e?

Ukiyo-e” is a type of Japanese genre painting that developed during the Edo period (1603-1868) flourished especially among the common people.

The word “ukiyo” refers to the “world” or “real life”, including lives of people, Kabuki actors and scenery of the time. Works depicting these “ukiyo” are called ukiyo-e.

Its artists produced woodblock prints and paintings. While paintings were very expensive because they were one-of-a-kind, woodblock prints were mass-producible and inexpensive, making them popular among the general public.

Ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)

Utagawa Hiroshige was a Japanese ukiyoe artist active in the late Edo period.

Although he was born into a family of Hikeshi (today’s firefighters) and was the heir to the family, Hiroshige loved painting from an early age and was taught by Utagawa Toyohiro as a pupil.

While he also painted bijin-ga (paintings of beautiful women), he gained fame as a landscape painter with the huge success of “The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido”.

He also influenced the European painter Vincent van Gogh.

The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido

The Tokaido road, connecting Nihonbashi, Edo, to Kyoto, is the major travel and transport route of Japan. The road was constructed under the direction of Tokugawa Ieyasu, and there were 53 stations where restaurants and accommodation facilities were operated for travelers.

“The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido ” is a series of ukiyo-e prints depicting those landscapes. Besides the 53 stations themselves, the series includes one print for the departure, Nihonbashi, and a final one, the 55th print, Kyoto.

The reason why the masterpiece was a hit and is still relevant.

Today, Kyoto is only about two hours away from Edo (present-day Nihonbashi, Tokyo) by Shinkansen.

However, people in those days had to travel this about 500 km of journey, over a two-week period.

Many of The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido series were painted in a composition looking from the Edo side to the Kyoto side, so that Edo people could have a simulated experience of visiting Kyoto by viewing the works.

Just as we simulated travel through TV and books under COVID-19 pandemic, the people of that time also had thoughts of the scenery by looking at prints of The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.

Nihonbashi, the first of The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido series

It is a landscape of Nihonbashi in the morning, the starting point of the Tokaido.

The Daimyo’s procession can be seen starting to cross the bridge with the morning glow in the background.

In front are fishmongers, vegetable vendors, and dogs playing.

This work conveys the liveliness of Nihonbashi with its interesting viewpoint of peering through the large wooden doors that open to the left and right.

Enjoy Nihonbashi The Fifty-three Station of the Tokaido in the form of NFTs.

After purchase, you can enjoy this work by adjusting the color layers in the PSD file, allowing you to freely change the colors and layers of each edition.

Here are some ways to enjoy it.

Here is the original work you can purchase.

You can edit multiple layers in this by yourself.

How to enjoy #1: Change into monochrome

This is a simple way to change the image, which can be enjoyed with your favorite color scheme like a coloring book or as a monochrome image as it is.

In the modern world full of colors, monochrome might be a good choice.

The simplicity of monochrome allows us to see the finer details of each line, to focus on the bridge and the house roof instead of the people, and to see things in a different way than when using color.

How to enjoy #2: Change the situation

As mentioned above, Nihonbashi The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido depicts a “morning” view.

Now, let’s change that situation dramatically to the evening!

Unlike the morning view, which felt a bit cooler, the color palette was designed to make us feel that night was approaching while retaining the warmth of the daytime.

The colors of the people’s clothes also pop, making us imagine that it was a hot summer day.

How to enjoy #3: See the parts that was not visible

Perhaps the best way to enjoy the characteristics of this work is making the scene empty.

Ogasawara’s additions to the areas where people had been painted have recreated a hidden world.

It is also possible to add new layers to this world to create your own original characters.

Also enjoy the feelings of the artists involved in Ukiyo-e.

Did you get the idea of how to enjoy this work?

Ukiyo-e, the prints popular among the general public during the Edo period, were created under a division of labor.

There were three main divisions: the painter, such as Utagawa Hiroshige; the sculptor, who carves the plates for the prints; and the printer, who prints them on Japanese paper.

When you look at an ukiyo-e, you may feel that the colors are different from those of the same work you have seen before.

This is because the interpretation and colors of the work differ depending on the printer’s sense and technique, as well as the number of times the work was printed.

One of the main features of the “Ukiyo-e in the form of  NFTs” works introduced in this article is that the coloring part, which used to be the role of the printer, can be enjoyed in a modern way.

It can also be used for research purposes, such as digitally reproducing faded original dyes.

We hope you will enjoy the “modern version of Ukiyo-e art”.

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