“Who was Utagawa Hiroshige? Discover the Prolific Artist’s Tranquil Prints and Lasting Impact on Japanese Art”

utagawa hiroshige

  1. Hiroshige’s real name was Andō Tokutarō, but he later changed it to Utagawa Hiroshige when he became an artist.
  2. He was born in 1797 in Edo (now Tokyo), Japan, and lived until 1858.
  3. Hiroshige was initially trained as a fire warden and only pursued art later in life.
  4. He was a prolific artist and created over 8,000 prints during his career.
  5. Hiroshige’s prints were not only popular in Japan but also gained recognition and admiration in Europe.
  6. He was known for his ability to capture the changing seasons and weather conditions in his landscape prints.
  7. Hiroshige’s work often featured a sense of tranquility and harmony, reflecting the traditional Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi.
  8. He was deeply influenced by the natural beauty of Japan and often depicted famous landmarks, such as Mount Fuji and the Sumida River.
  9. Hiroshige’s prints were highly sought after by collectors, and he had a significant impact on the commercialization of ukiyo-e prints.
  10. Despite his success as an artist, Hiroshige lived a modest life and was known for his humility and dedication to his craft.
  11. 1. Utagawa Hiroshige’s Background

1-1. Hiroshige’s real name and his decision to change it

Utagawa Hiroshige, one of the most renowned artists in Japanese history, was not actually born with that name. His real name was Andō Tokutarō, but he made the decision to change it later in life. The name “Utagawa Hiroshige” was adopted when he became a ukiyo-e artist, a genre of woodblock prints and paintings that flourished during the Edo period in Japan.

1-2. His birthplace and lifespan

Hiroshige was born in 1797 in the city of Edo, which is now known as Tokyo. He lived during a time of great change in Japan, as the country was transitioning from the feudal Edo period to the modern Meiji period. Hiroshige’s lifespan spanned almost the entire 19th century, as he passed away in 1858 at the age of 61.

Hiroshige’s prints are known for their serene and tranquil depictions of landscapes, particularly his series “The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō” and “The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō.” These prints captured the beauty of Japan’s natural scenery and the everyday life of its people, and they continue to have a lasting impact on Japanese art to this day.

2. Hiroshige’s Journey to Becoming an Artist

2-1. Initial career as a fire warden

Before Utagawa Hiroshige became a renowned artist, he had a completely different career path. In his early years, Hiroshige worked as a fire warden in Edo, the old name for Tokyo. As a fire warden, his duty was to patrol the streets and keep an eye out for any potential fire hazards. This job allowed him to become intimately familiar with the city and its surroundings.

During his time as a fire warden, Hiroshige developed a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature and the changing seasons. He often found himself captivated by the landscapes he encountered during his patrols. This newfound love for nature would later become a central theme in his artwork.

2-2. Transition to pursuing art later in life

Although Hiroshige had a stable job as a fire warden, his passion for art never waned. In fact, it continued to grow stronger with each passing day. Eventually, he made the bold decision to leave his career as a fire warden behind and fully dedicate himself to pursuing art.

Hiroshige’s transition to becoming a full-time artist was not without its challenges. He had to overcome financial difficulties and face criticism from those who doubted his talent. However, his determination and unwavering passion for art propelled him forward.

As he delved deeper into the world of art, Hiroshige honed his skills and developed a unique style that would later become his trademark. He experimented with different techniques and mediums, constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional Japanese art.

Hiroshige’s decision to pursue art later in life turned out to be a wise one. His tranquil prints depicting landscapes and everyday scenes resonated with people from all walks of life. His works became highly sought after and he gained recognition as one of the most influential artists of his time.

Today, Hiroshige’s legacy lives on through his artwork, which continues to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts around the world. His prints serve as a window into the beauty of Japan’s natural landscapes and the daily lives of its people.

In conclusion, Utagawa Hiroshige’s journey to becoming an artist was a remarkable one. From his humble beginnings as a fire warden to his eventual success as a prolific artist, Hiroshige’s story is a testament to the power of following one’s passion and never giving up on one’s dreams.

3. Hiroshige’s Prolific Artistic Career

Utagawa Hiroshige was an incredibly prolific artist, creating a vast number of prints throughout his career. His dedication to his craft and his ability to capture the beauty of nature and everyday life in Japan made him one of the most renowned ukiyo-e artists of his time.

3-1. Number of prints created

Hiroshige’s body of work is truly impressive, with estimates suggesting that he created over 8,000 prints during his lifetime. This staggering number is a testament to his passion for art and his commitment to sharing his unique perspective with the world.

Each of Hiroshige’s prints tells a story, whether it’s a serene landscape, a bustling city scene, or a snapshot of everyday life in Japan. His attention to detail and his ability to capture the essence of a moment are what set his prints apart and continue to captivate audiences to this day.

3-2. Recognition and admiration of his prints in Europe

Hiroshige’s prints not only gained popularity in Japan but also caught the attention of art enthusiasts in Europe. During the 19th century, when Japan began to open up to the world, a wave of Japanese art, including Hiroshige’s prints, made its way to Europe.

Artists and collectors in Europe were fascinated by the unique style and subject matter of Hiroshige’s prints. The vibrant colors, intricate details, and poetic compositions resonated with European audiences, who were eager to explore art from different cultures.

Hiroshige’s prints had a lasting impact on European art movements, particularly on the Impressionists. Artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet were inspired by Hiroshige’s use of color and composition, incorporating these elements into their own works.

Today, Hiroshige’s prints can be found in museums and private collections around the world. They continue to be admired for their beauty, craftsmanship, and the insight they provide into Japanese culture and history.

In conclusion, Utagawa Hiroshige’s artistic career was marked by his incredible productivity and the lasting impact of his prints. His ability to capture the essence of Japan and his unique artistic style have made him a celebrated figure in the world of art. Whether it’s through his serene landscapes or his vibrant city scenes, Hiroshige’s prints continue to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide.

4. Hiroshige’s Unique Style and Themes

4-1. Capturing the changing seasons and weather conditions

One of the distinctive features of Utagawa Hiroshige’s artwork is his ability to capture the beauty of the changing seasons and weather conditions. Through his prints, he was able to depict the vibrant colors and atmospheric changes that occur throughout the year in Japan.

For example, in his famous series “The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido,” Hiroshige portrayed each station along the Tokaido road in different seasons. From the cherry blossoms in full bloom during spring to the snow-covered landscapes in winter, Hiroshige’s prints vividly depict the ever-changing natural scenery.

Hiroshige’s attention to detail is evident in his portrayal of weather conditions as well. In his print “Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake,” he captures the momentary downpour and the people struggling to find shelter. The raindrops falling from the sky and the ripples on the water surface are meticulously depicted, creating a sense of realism and immersing the viewer in the scene.

4-2. Reflecting tranquility and harmony in his work

Another characteristic of Hiroshige’s art is the sense of tranquility and harmony that permeates his prints. His landscapes often depict serene scenes of nature, such as peaceful rivers, quiet villages, and majestic mountains. These tranquil settings evoke a sense of calmness and serenity, allowing viewers to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

In his series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” Hiroshige portrays the city of Edo (now Tokyo) in a way that emphasizes its natural beauty and harmony with human activity. Whether it’s a bustling marketplace or a quiet temple, Hiroshige’s prints convey a sense of balance and coexistence between man and nature.

Furthermore, Hiroshige’s use of color and composition adds to the overall sense of tranquility in his work. Soft and muted colors, along with the careful arrangement of elements, create a harmonious and soothing visual experience. This aesthetic quality is one of the reasons why Hiroshige’s prints continue to be admired and appreciated by art enthusiasts around the world.

In conclusion, Utagawa Hiroshige’s unique style and themes, including his ability to capture the changing seasons and weather conditions, as well as his reflection of tranquility and harmony in his work, have made him a prolific artist with a lasting impact on Japanese art. His prints continue to inspire and captivate audiences, showcasing the beauty of nature and the peacefulness of everyday life.

5. Hiroshige’s Impact on Japanese Art

5-1. Depicting famous landmarks and natural beauty of Japan

Utagawa Hiroshige, a renowned Japanese artist, had a profound impact on Japanese art through his unique depictions of famous landmarks and the natural beauty of Japan. His prints captured the essence of Japan’s landscapes, showcasing its majestic mountains, serene rivers, and picturesque countryside.

Hiroshige’s prints often featured famous landmarks such as Mount Fuji, the iconic symbol of Japan. Through his artwork, he not only showcased the physical beauty of these landmarks but also conveyed a sense of their cultural and historical significance. His prints allowed people to experience the grandeur of Mount Fuji or the tranquility of Kyoto’s temples from the comfort of their own homes.

One of Hiroshige’s most famous series of prints, “The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido,” depicted the journey along the Tokaido road, which connected Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto. Each print in the series showcased a different station along the road, capturing the unique landscapes, local customs, and everyday life of the people living there. These prints became incredibly popular and were widely collected, allowing people to experience the beauty and diversity of Japan’s landscapes.

5-2. Commercialization of ukiyo-e prints and his influence

Hiroshige’s impact on Japanese art extended beyond his artistic skills. He played a significant role in the commercialization of ukiyo-e prints, a popular art form during the Edo period. Ukiyo-e prints were initially created as affordable art for the masses, depicting scenes from everyday life, kabuki actors, and beautiful women.

Hiroshige, with his innovative approach to composition and use of vibrant colors, revolutionized the ukiyo-e print industry. His prints became highly sought after, and he collaborated with publishers to produce large editions of his works, making them accessible to a wider audience. This commercialization of ukiyo-e prints not only brought Hiroshige financial success but also popularized the art form and influenced other artists to follow suit.

Hiroshige’s influence can still be seen in contemporary Japanese art. His unique style and ability to capture the essence of Japan’s landscapes continue to inspire artists today. His prints have become iconic representations of Japan’s natural beauty and cultural heritage, and his impact on Japanese art remains enduring.


Utagawa Hiroshige was a highly influential artist in Japanese art history. His tranquil prints and unique style have left a lasting impact on the art world. In this article, we will explore who Utagawa Hiroshige was, delve into his tranquil prints, and discuss his enduring legacy in Japanese art.

Who was Utagawa Hiroshige?

Utagawa Hiroshige was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist who lived from 1797 to 1858. He was born in Edo (now Tokyo) and began his artistic career as a student of the ukiyo-e master Utagawa Toyohiro. Hiroshige’s real name was Andō Tokutarō, but he later adopted the name Utagawa Hiroshige after becoming a professional artist.

Tranquil Prints

One of Hiroshige’s most famous series of prints is “The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō.” This series depicts the various stations along the Tōkaidō, the main road connecting Edo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Each print captures a different scene along the journey, showcasing Hiroshige’s ability to evoke a sense of tranquility and beauty in nature.

Another notable series by Hiroshige is “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.” This collection showcases the landscapes and cityscapes of Edo, providing a glimpse into the daily life of the city’s inhabitants. Hiroshige’s use of vibrant colors and meticulous attention to detail make these prints visually stunning and captivating.

Lasting Impact on Japanese Art

Hiroshige’s unique style and innovative techniques had a profound influence on Japanese art. His use of perspective, bold compositions, and incorporation of Western artistic elements set him apart from his contemporaries. Hiroshige’s prints were not only admired in Japan but also gained recognition and popularity in the Western world.

Furthermore, Hiroshige’s emphasis on capturing the beauty of nature and everyday life had a lasting impact on subsequent generations of artists. His ability to infuse his prints with a sense of tranquility and harmony resonated with viewers and continues to inspire artists today.


Utagawa Hiroshige was a prolific artist whose tranquil prints and lasting impact on Japanese art cannot be overstated. His ability to capture the beauty of nature and everyday life in his prints continues to captivate audiences worldwide. Whether it is his famous series depicting the Tōkaidō or his stunning views of Edo, Hiroshige’s art remains a testament to his talent and artistic vision.