Yase Village, from the series "Famous Places in Kyoto" (Kyoto meisho)


Along with Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), Andō Hiroshige is the most celebrated of Japanese print artists of the first half of the nineteenth century. Under the tutelage of Utagawa Toyohiro, Hiroshige was trained in printmaking and Utagawa school painting. He also learned a range of painting styles, including nanga (“southern” painting), Shijō school painting, and Western painting. Although he initially produced images of beautiful women and actors, he sealed his fortune with landscape prints.

Hiroshige produced his earliest landscape series in the 1830s, and is most famous for his Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (Tōkaidō gojūsan-tsugi, ca. 1833–34). Famous Places in Kyoto is a set of ten prints published by Eisendō. It includes views of the Yodo River in moonlight, the bed of the Kamo River at Shijō Avenue, the Gion Shrine in snow, Yase Village in spring, Cherry-blossoms at Arashiyama and at the temple Kiyomizu, the Golden Pavillion, a twilight shower on the banks of the Tadasu River, a willow tree at the exit to the Shimbara district, and fall maple leaves at the Tsūten Bridge of the temple Tōfukuji.

Each of the prints is seasonal, and includes scenes not only of natural beauty but also human interest. In this print, a group of three women ambles through Yase Village carrying a ladder, a tray with refreshments and food, and firewood. One of them looks back, checking on the progress of someone trailing figure leading a horse who bears the remainder of the firewood they have collected. In the background is the silhouette of a tree dotted with spring buds. Yase Village, considered to be in the northern area of the capital during the 1830s, is located today in the Sakyō ward of central Kyoto.