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Kunisada's Tokaido: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints

Brill

9789004191464

The Tōkaidō highway, connecting Edo with Kyoto, was the most vital thoroughfare in Japan. Its cultural presence in pre to early modern Japanese society led to the publication of woodblock print series, such as the widely known landscape prints by Hiroshige, that took this famous road as their theme.

The prints of Utagawa Kunisada, the most sought-after woodblock print designer of his day, represent a different treatment of the Tōkaidō, in which popular kabuki actors in specific roles are paired with Tōkaidō post stations. This study discusses the phenomenon of serialization in Japanese prints outlining its marketing mechanisms and concepts. It then proceeds to unravel Kunisada's pairings of post-stations and kabuki roles, which served as puzzles for his audience to decipher. Finally, this study analyzes Kunisada's methods when he invented and developed these patterns.




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