Hello, here is Izumi.

When I was looking at all the wonderful photographs taken by Nobukuni Enami, some of which you can see on my page here, I was thinking forward from him to M Yvon and M Cartier-Bresson and other famous street photographers but then it also occurred to me to think back to before there were photographs at all and wonder if a photographic flâneuse could have been in existence then.

And I thought in a way 'Yes' because my country has an old tradition of artists going on long walks or pilgrimages and although they may have had a particular objective or destination in mind, like Mt Fuji or a temple or a famous road or a seasonal ceremony, so their paths were not entirely random, they were open to drawing and painting new experiences or events on the way.

Perhaps the most famous of these artistic travellers in his times and even now was Ando Hiroshige. He lived in Edo and in his teenage years began properly studying in the studio of the artist Toyohiro. But the earliest known record of his artistic talent was from when he was 10 years old and painted a scroll entitled Procession of the Luchu Islanders which is still in existence.


This portrait was made by his great friend Toyokuni after Hiroshige had joined the ancestors, but the poetry was written by him when he was very ill with cholera, and possibly thought that his footsteps were finally coming to their end.

It says:

Upon the Eastern Road
My brush I've left behind.
Now on a journey through the skies
I go to see the famous places
In the Western Paradise.

Toyokuni also wrote above his signature on the portrait "Shedding tears in thought of him".

I hope Hiroshige found another brush for his celestial walkings, so that he could remain true to his lifetime calling.


Hiroshige was born in 1797 in Edo, which was the old name for Tokyo, the son of one of the officials of the fire brigade that was assigned to Edo Castle, and he died in 1858, aged 62. He showed an early interest in art and first studied under Okajime Rinsai. In 1811, at the age of 14, he became a pupil of Utagawa Toyohiro. During this period he also became interested in Western art. He joined the fire brigade himself, and because fires in the castle were very seldom, he had plenty of time in his hands to follow his artistic pursuits.

Hiroshige was not the only maker and seller of these types of woodblock prints but because of the great number of them that he produced and because he travelled a lot through Japan visiting towns and villages and scenic outlooks and inns and tea-houses on his ways and was interested to record the people and activities and general street life of the places he walked through, he could truthfully be called a flâneur, even if his path was somewhat known in advance, and I will show you a selection of his happy prints here, from his walkings along one of Japan's famous early highways.

Stations on the Tokaido Road No 1: Nihonbashi
The Nihon Bridge was located in the centre of Edo and was the starting point of the
Tokaido Road, as well as being the point from where all distances were measured.
Hiroshige has captured much candid street activity and realistic detail in this
woodblock, which is typical of how he approached the whole series.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 6: Totsuka
This was the next night's stopping place after leaving Edo.
Perhaps that is Hiroshige himself coming over the bridge.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 12: Mishima
This was a very popular resting place and here travellers are
packing up and setting out early on a misty morning
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 23: Fuji-Jeda
Here cargo carriers are changing horses and sorting
out their loads before continuing on their way

Hiroshige first travelled along the main coastal highway, the Tokaido (Eastern Sea Road), which linked the Shogun's capital of Edo with the imperial capital of Kyoto, in 1832 as a minor government official. Along this road there were 53 different post stations, which provided stables, food, and lodging for travellers as well as collecting tolls from them.

Hiroshige was so taken with the scenery, the street life and the people he passed and travelled with along the way that the following year he made the trip again, this time with the express purpose of producing a series of ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints, of which a new theme, the landscape print, or fukei-ga, which included famous views and sights, or meisho, was just becoming very popular in Japan.

Because he had been interested in and was familiar with Western art he used techniques such as perspective and foreground and background points of interest in these works. As you will see, and if you keep in your mind that his woodblocks were like the cameras of later flâneurs in other countries, he seemed to understand as well the different views to be obtained from wide angle and telephoto lenses, even though he probably never saw a camera in his life.

Here are some of Hiroshige's famous Tokaido Road ukiyo-e, so you can see if I am right or not.

Stations on the Tokaido Road No 27: Kakegawa
You can see here how Hiroshige liked to capture the realities of the road.
This woodblock must have had a fast shutter speed to capture the
travellers fighting the wind, and the kites in the air.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 30: Hamamatsu
Here is a candid woodblock of a group of travellers warming themselves
before a bonfire. If you look at the way the bank of the paddy field curves
up at the sides you will realise that this is a wide angle woodblock.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 36: Goyu
Here Hiroshige has captured a waitress from the tea house on the
right trying to drag a traveller into her shop. There were many
tea houses and restaurants at this stop, to Hiroshige's delight.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 37: Akasaka
This is what Hiroshige liked, both to experience and to paint - a
wayside tavern scene with travellers having dinner, another coming
back from the bath and geishas preparing for a performance.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 42: Miya

Here is an action woodblock of two teams dragging a float, which
is out of frame, in front of the Miya Temple on a fête day procession.

Stations on the Tokaido Road No 44: Yokkaichi
Perhaps a Decisive Moment as a traveller chases his hat in a high wind.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 46: Shono
Here Hiroshige captures a storm that has caught travellers unawares.
Either he was surprised too or he thought it his artistic duty to make
sketches despite the weather to be true to all the conditions of the road.

Stations on the Tokaido Road No 53: Kusatsu
Here Hiroshige shows a rest-house for the cargo-carriers on the
road, and a kago and palanquin passing in the foreground. I
wonder if he had to wait long to get all this in the one frame.
Stations on the Tokaido Road No 55: Kyoto
This was the last bridge on the Tokaido Road and on the far shore
you can see the city of Kyoto. It is a bit bigger today.

The methods used by Hiroshige, T Enami, Yvon, M Cartier-Bresson, Ms Vivian Maier, Jeff Carter and me (if I may be so bold as to so place myself) were quite different, although the intended result was much the same. But also the different equipment used must have caused different thinkings.

Hiroshige could not produce a woodcut by just pressing a button. He would make sketches and notes as he went along which he would then refine, perhaps many months later when he had returned from his travels, back in his studio. Maybe because he was looking at places and people as well as writing down things about them and making little drawings to help his memories later on what he was doing could be called sight-sketching.

Hiroshige could not make the whole woodblock process by himself, either. Once he had finished the drawing to his satisfaction, it went to an engraver who carved it into a block of wood using a sharp knife and chisels, then a printer put ink on the block and made several proofs on paper of the whole picture, depending on the number of coloured inks to be used in the finished work. Hiroshige would work out which parts of the picture would be in which colour and the engraver would make a new set of woodblocks, one for each colour. Then the printer would start to make the pictures, printing one colour at a time onto sheets of paper, probably supervised or at least advised by Hiroshige, although the printer was also very skilled and once he knew an artist's preferences he could be left to complete the prints, or more probably series of prints, while Hiroshige went off on another long walking journey.

M Yvon could take advantage of the relative quickness of his camera, but because of very slow emulsions and separate glass plates for each exposure, and the time it would take to set up his equipment for each photograph, he had to really think if the scene in front of him was worthy of a photograph. Then he had to go to his darkroom and process the plates before he could make a print, which also took more time.

M Cartier-Bresson had more advantages still with a small and light camera when he was using his Leica, but the main one would be that he could take many photographs quickly and only have to put a new film in his camera every 36 photographs or so. But he still had to go and process the film and then have a darkroom in order to produce a print. When he was on an assignment in foreign lands he sent the exposed film back unprocessed so sometimes it could be many months before he had a chance to see the photographs he had captured.

Ms Vivian Maier also had a relatively small camera in her Rolleiflex, even though it was bigger and harder to handle on the streets than M Cartier-Bresson's Leica. But she did have roll film and faster lenses and shutter speeds. We now know that she gave most of her rolls of film to a photographic store to have processed, so she would have had to wait for a few days to see the results of her street walkings.

Lotus pond at Shinobuga-oka in 1831
Could the man holding the piece of paper be Hiroshige himself with a sketch?
We can know that he drew this scene as here is the finished woodblock.

If so, it is a rare self-portrait of the artist at work.
Night rain at Karasaki in 1847
Hiroshige produced many portraits of people so he was able to
accurately capture this geisha. Could the reference to 'night rain'
be a poe
tic allusion that is lost on us today?
Street vendors in the prosperous Joruri District in 1852
Perhaps this is from the window of Hiroshige's lodgings
and he seems here to have used a telephoto woodblock.

Jeff Carter, in his later career, and I (bold again!) could use digital cameras which allow us to see the photograph almost as soon as we capture it and we can decide if it is a happy one or not and perhaps we can take it again, if it has not escaped in the meantime.

This means that with us an image need only be in our heads for a short time before we can continue looking for the next one. I wonder if this is a good thing or not. I think that I realise that there are other slower, and at some times even better, ways to capture photographs which is why I use my Man Friday tripod whenever I can and I enjoy the challenge of manually adjusting the aperture and focus on my lenses.

But does this make us better photographers or allow us to produce happier photographs? Maybe in a purely technical sense we have an advantage but a happy photograph is far more emotion than technique.

I think that a photograph that is all technique and no emotion is not worth looking at or probably even being whereas one that is full of emotion but perhaps not quite sharp or the subject has moved or is lacking in contrast can be very rewarding to the eye and brain and heart of the viewer. Even some of the great Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs are not sharp or have subject movement because in order to keep himself as ready as possible for that Decisive Moment he would pre-focus his Leica on 3 metres or 8 metres (for example, depending on his surroundings) so that he didn't have to fiddle with the camera but could just bring it up to his eye and shoot. The resultant image and its composition were in the end more important than having perfect sharpness in all areas of the photograph. Or not having a photograph at all.

But I should get back to showing you some more of Hiroshige's candid woodblocks, even though they weren't really, but you've been reading my Diary for long enough now to know what I mean.

Here is the Autumn moon rising over Kanazawa, in 1835
To capture night time scenes like this I wonder if Hiroshige
used a fast woodblock or fast paints, or perhaps both.
A sudden shower at Tadasugawara has people running for cover in 1835
I'm not sure where Hiroshige was to get this angle. Maybe
on the other side of the river with a telephoto woodblock
The perspective does look slightly compressed.
Here is a night market in Junkei Street, Osaka in 1834
You can notice that woodblocks are very good at evening out the highlights
and shadows in scenes such as these, much better than my PEN would be.

Looking at these woodblocks, which are now over 150 years old, I have realised that I am following a longer line of footsteps than I first thought in my morning walkings.

Does this make it easier or harder for me? I really do not know.

On one shoulder I can feel there is a weight of history and tradition that to be true to myself and my artistic endeavours I must uphold and respect.

But then on the other side as a balance there is a comfort and even a pride that I am carrying on this long tradition of such image making. A tradition that, as I have found, goes back to well before there were cameras to record it, and the artists of those early times used the technologies of their own days.



Trout fishing in the Tamagawa in the Autumn moonlight in 1846
Here Hiroshige can combine a scenic view with people crossing
the bridge in the background to provide scale and a naughty
child in the foreground to provide human interest.
Here people of Kyoto enjoy a cool evening at Shijo in 1835
After he had finished the sketches for this woodcut, I bet Hiroshige wasted
no time in joining the people on the platform for their al fresco dinner.
Evening rain at Kanazawa, Koizumi in 1835
Hiroshige seems to have liked making woodblocks of rainy scenes.
Maybe the rainy days in Japan in those times were like the rain in
Paris which Yvon liked so much because it created beautiful soft light.
The Fish Market at Zakoba, Osaka in 1834
Another night scene, this time with both a fast and a wide angle woodblock.
Gay Street, Osaka in 1834
This is the title given to this scene, so I can be conjecturing as
much as you about the true meaning. It is probably far more
innocent than if Hiroshige had made a woodblock of Oxford Street.
The Gion shrine in the snow, Kyoto in 1835
As well as rain, Hiroshige made several woodblocks of
snow and winter scenes like this one of geisha having
a snow fight and the statues turning into snowmen.

Hiroshige's woodblocks of the Tokaido Read were so successful with the Japanese public that in 1835 he began work on another series on another road, this time The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido.

The Kisokaido (Central Mountain Road) ran from Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto along the mountains through the centre of Japan, joining up with the Tokaido Road which ran along the coast, for the last several stations. And Hiroshige again walked its length, staying at the various taverns and inns each night.

He did not necessarily walk the whole length back (or, as I am thinking now, the whole way forward), as there were horses available for hire between the stations and on the Tokaido Road, which ran along the coast, he could have taken a boat for part of the journey back to Edo.

Here is a selection of those woodblocks for you to look at and think about.

Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 19: Karuizawa
These travellers are preparing to settle down beside a bonfire.
Perhaps it is very late which is why there are no lights showing
in any of the houses or taverns or inns in the distance.

Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 22: Odai
Hiroshige shows these travellers walking through a rather bare field.
This to me looks like a 50mm, or 'Cartier-Bresson' lens. It is interesting
to wonder if Hiroshige had a favourite angle of view for his woodblocks.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 30: Shimoswa
At this inn travellers could enjoy a hot springs bath before eating and
drinking. This was what Hiroshige looked forward to at the end of each day,
and it is said that it is he in the green yukata who has his back to the viewer.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 33: Motoyama
Motoyama is where buckwheat noodles (soba) were invented, and
I'll bet Hiroshige enjoyed sampling them. Like photographers to come,
he didn't miss an opportunity to record incidents along the way, as in
these woodcutters removing a pine tree that has fallen across the road.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 34: Niegawa
Here some travellers are preparing to leave the tavern, while
others are still having breakfast or slowly facing the new day.

Another 50mm woodblock, to my eyes.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 40: Suhara
Another example of Hiroshige being quick with his brush, as a
rainstorm causes some to run for cover and others to carry on.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 50: Ontake
This inn was at the top of a mountain path, and also served as a
tea house for travellers. The sign says "cheap lodging house".
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 60: Imasu
Here Hiroshige catches several travellers mid-action on the road.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 61: Kashiwabara
Here is a very modern-looking restaurant and bar, being open to the street
so customers can see what's going on. The signs say "Kintoki Rice Cake" and
"Sake and Refreshments", so you can bet Hiroshige enjoyed staying here.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 63: Banba
Perhaps here Hiroshige stopped walking and just sat by the roadside for
a while and observed and sketched the street life happening before him.
Stations on the Kisokaido Road No 70: Otsu
This is the final stop on the road, and there is a signboard that says 'Zen',
which Hiroshige used to signify that this was the last picture in the series.

There is not much traffic so I suppose it was safe for him to stand in the
middle of the road to make the sketches for this woodblock.

Having lived in a large city, Hiroshige had developed a taste for good food and drink, and he was not going to lower his standards on his journeys. In the diaries that he wrote during his travels, he mentions the inns and tea houses at which he ate and drank, and was not afraid to say if their food and drinks were good or bad.

When you read them today you can think that they are like the Guide Michelin of his times, although they were for his use, and perhaps that of his friends who undertook similar journeys, but he did not intend them for publication. He was probably too busy anyway, with the more than eight thousand works, including over five thousand five hundred different coloured prints he produced in his lifetime.

As you can see from the selection above, he also drew and painted many of the taverns and tea houses that he frequented.

Thirty-six Famous Views of Mt Fuji (1858)
The teahouse with the view of Mt. Fuji at Zoshigawa
I wonder if Hirosghige deliberately let the pole be in front of the lady
rather that moving to the left or asking her to move a little bit forward.
Thirty-six Famous Views of Mt Fuji (1858)
The Sumida Embankment in the Eastern Capital
I think every street photographer at some time has had to be extra
careful to press the shutter at just the right moment so people aren't
obscured by something in the shot that can't be avoided.
Thirty-six Famous Views of Mt Fuji (1858)
Mt. Rokusu in Kazusa Province
This view is at the top of a big hill so Hiroshige was probably glad
to rest and see what came by that was worth sketching. I think
I know what it is like to wait quietly for that Decisive Moment.
Thirty-six Famous Views of Mt Fuji (1858)
The Entrance Gate at Enoshima in Sagami Province
Here Hiroshige seems to have decided not to have things neatly arranged in the
frame, or perhaps he was more concentrating on the positions of the three women.
Thirty-six Famous Views of Mt Fuji (1858)
The Sagami River
Here Hiroshige has made many planes of interest. There is
something to look at from the very near heron through the
raftmen in the middle ground to the very distant Mt Fuji.
Thirty-six Famous Views of Mt Fuji (1858)
The draper's store Echigoya in Suruga-chô, Edo
Another 50mm woodblock, do you think? And Hiroshige was
lucky to get the range of expressions on the peoples' faces.

When I look at these woodblocks I think of some things that you may find interesting to think of as well.

What I do is think that Mr Hiroshige had a camera with him instead of a sketchbook and the woodblocks are really photographs and I look to see what lens he used for different types of subjects, and the types of lighting that he preferred.

For the scenic images he used a wide angle lens, to my eyes about a 28mm and for a lot of the activities in the streets probably a 35mm and sometimes a 50mm, but not very often unless it was a closer observation of a single person. He only very rarely seemed to use a telephoto lens, and even then only a little one of 100mm or 120mm.

He would not be unknowing of optical devices as telescopes had been invented but perhaps he was more interested in what he saw with his own unaided eyes.

So now let me show you some woodblocks where Hiroshige demonstrates that he understands the powerful images that can be made by using dramatic perspective and composition and foreground interest.

One Hundred Views of Edo
34: Night View of Matsuchi Hill and the San'ya Canal in 1856
This woodblock is interesting because Hiroshige knew about perspective
and Western concepts such as the rule of thirds but here he deliberately
broke the rules to have the geisha walking out of frame instead of into it,
even though she is on a third, as is the river bank. But the tree and the
lights over the water still give a pleasing composition.
One Hundred Views of Edo
38: Dawn Clouds at the Licensed Quarter in 1856
As Hiroshige was very fond of his food and drink he was probably
quite familiar with the dawn light after a night of merry-making.

Probably not on this night, though, or he would have had trouble
keeping the woodblock steady.

One Hundred Views of Edo
44: View of the First Street on Nihonbashidori in 1856
As well as the bold colours there is here a bold composition
showing his understanding of the Western concept of perspective .
One Hundred Views of Edo
65: The Entrance of the Sanno Festival Procession to Kojimachi in 1856
And here is another example of Hiroshige placing something very
close to the viewer to contrast with the scenery in the distance.
Note the depth-of-field which stretches from the figure in the
foreground to the distant trees. Woodblocks seem to have
everything equally sharp, which as you will know by reading my
Diary is not always the case with pinhole cameras, even though
they both produce images without having a lens.
One Hundred Views of Edo
74: Clothing Shop at Odemmacho in 1856
This could almost be from the Leica of M Cartier-Bresson with
both a street scene and the activity of people doing things.
One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
75: The Dyers' District in Kanda in 1856
Here is perhaps another of Hiroshige's rare telephoto woodblocks
showing details of dyed cloth hanging up to dry from wooden poles.
Again note the extreme depth-of-field which extends from the
foreground cloth to the background Mt Fuji.
One Hundred Views of Edo
90: Night View of Saruwakacho in 1856
The original title is Saruwaka cho, Yoru Shibai, (Theatres by Night, Young
Monkey Street). Again here Hiroshige shows the Western influence by his use
of perspective and shadows of the people, which he does not usually include.
One Hundred Views of Edo
101: Celebration of the Cock Festival in the Rice Fields near Asakusa in 1856
Here perhaps Hiroshige is having a little joke with the title, as the procession is
way off in the distance and without the mention in the title you may not even
notice it. Should it have been called "Cat Watching Celebration…" I wonder?
And this is woodblock 101 of the Hundred Views. Hiroshige often went over
the actual number in the series title.
Owl (1832)
And after preparing all the woodblocks for you here,
and finding out so much about Hiroshige, un flâneur Japonais,
I am feeling very much like the owl he did that you see above.

I have put many of Hiroshige's woodblocks here for you to look at and I hope you have enjoyed them as a different type of street walking, although the aim of capturing interesting images is the same.

If you are reading this ending before you have begun looking at the woodblocks, may I suggest that first you prepare a nice cup of tea to go with your eye-walking. I did when I had finished putting the page together and then I read it as if I was coming to it for the first time. It was very enjoyable that way!

And if you wish to enquire further about this wonderful artist, you will find much fascinating information at this website.

Now I leave you until another time.

Your friend,


To fully understand my footsteps, please read me from the start.
Following the Woodblock Footsteps
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