Tōkaidō Road

Labels from the Tōkaidō Road series, in a collectors' album
Labels from the Tōkaidō Road series, in a collectors’ album

Exhibitor : Jerry Bell

During the Edo period in Japan (1603 to 1867) there were five roads across the country which linked the main cities together. Tōkaidō Road was the most important of these and connected the then capital Kyoto with Edo (modern day Tokyo) where the Shogunate had been officially established in 1603. It ran for 514 km along the sea coast between the two cities. On the road were 53 different stations (shukuba), which provided stables, food and lodgings for travellers because the journey on foot would take many days.

There is a very famous set of woodblock prints of Tōkaidō Road by the Japanese artist, Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), who painted them in 1832. Hiroshige’s paintings are characterized by objective realism, and he achieved great success in giving graphic expression to Japanese climate, weather and geographic features.

Nihonbashi (departure station) label, 54 x 35 mm
Nihonbashi (departure station) label, 54 x 35 mm

Matchbox labels showing Hiroshige’s paintings have been issued many times and undergone many printings.

There are actually 55 labels in the set, the 53 stations plus one label for the departure from Edo (Nihonbashi) and one label for the arrival in Kyoto, the imperial capital.

Here are the pages from my album showing the box labels, click on an image below to enlarge it and see the stations of Tōkaidō Road.

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