The Tokugawa Period

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The Tokugawa period of Japan was a time of peace and stability. Consequently, it was a time where the arts prospered. One medium of art that showcases Tokugawa Japan well is its woodblock prints. The first time woodblock prints were used in Japan was in the eighth century. By the mid-late Tokugawa period, new artistic technologies had developed, and it was possible to use a whole range of colors to form a print. The first polychrome prints, or ukiyo-e were created in 1765 for a group of wealthy patrons. Prior to the Tokugawa period, ukiyo conveyed the transitory nature of life, a Buddhist belief. However, this gloomy definition was altered during the Tokugawa period. The character that once meant “transitory” was replaced with its homonym,…show more content…
Throughout the Tokugawa period, these prints became available to all, regardless of class, as they could be inexpensively mass produced. Prints varied in subject and design based on the group of people who took part in creating the print. The group included a publisher, who funded the prints, an artist, who designed the picture, and block printers and carvers, who created the final product. Much can be discovered about this period from its many woodblock prints. The two prints I selected are Okitsu, Okitsugawa and Fukugawa Mannenbashi shita. Okistsu, Okitsugawa is from the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido designed by Andō Hiroshige. Fukugawa Mannenbashi shita is from Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji designed by Katsushika Hokusai. From these prints, one can discover that the Tokugawa period in Japan had strict social stratification, and was a time of development for Japan’s infrastructure and…show more content…
In Okitsu, Okitsugawa, servants are shown carrying a man on a norimono, as another man follows behind on horseback. The man being carried is most likely a daimyo headed to or from Edo, and the man on horseback is most likely his hired samurai. The stark contrast of the classes is not only shown by the men carrying the daimyo, but also by the way each man dresses. The servants are wearing small loincloths, while the daimyo and samurai are clothed in blue kimono. The disparity between the classes is also evident in the size of each person. The servants appear to be smaller in stature than the daimyo and samurai, exemplifying the fact that they were considered lesser. In Fukagawa Mannenbashi shita, the social distinction between different classes is also evident. Peasants are shown fishing along the shore and in boats, while people who appear to be merchants walk over the Mannen bridge, possibly heading to the market. This print depicts the fishermen as dedicated, hard workers, two traits that were well respected in Tokugawa Japan. The height of the bridge was an architectural and practical decision, but artistically it highlights the contrast between the

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