The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was a prolific artist and woodblock printer who contributed greatly to bringing ukiyo-e landscape imagery to a pinnacle, along with his rival Utagawa Hiroshige. Hokusai’s landscapes were more imaginative than naturalistic, creating dynamic scenery that revealed his inner personality and deep knowledge of the subject. This image, in the rare format of a printed envelope, forms part of the series Tōto Hyakkei (100 Views in the Eastern Capital). It depicts pilgrims at a roadside rest stop, with Mount Fuji looming in the distance.

Last updated: September 18, 2015