Exquisitely beautiful as only Japanese artwork can be, it is a privilege to be able to sit down and enjoy this selection of stunning woodblock prints which tells the story of the Japanese people as they discovered tourism; discovered places further afield than just their town or village.
Prior to the ninetieth century many Japanese did not travel far from home as the roads were poor, the risk was high and moving about the countryside was not encouraged.
Eventually the political situation steadied, the road networks were improved and the era of the sacred pilgrimage arrived. The estimate of 5 million people travelling for pleasure during 1830-1831 was based on the mass pilgrimage to Ise. Japans population at the time was 32 million people. Then the advent of rail made travel easier than ever before encouraging a massive growth in travel for more than just a sacred pilgrimage.
As the tourist industry gained momentum the block print came into its own as an affordable souvenir. Prints were made of favourite sites, beautiful building, sacred temples and delicate landscapes, thus created what has become an enviable and beautiful record of and about the history of Japan.
Divided into four chapters there is a short but descriptive explanation of the area: the sub sections within this main chapter are also introduced with a short narrative on that particular place and the prints chosen.
Regardless of this, each of the prints comes with their own detail as to the creator, date, scene and history of the recorded image.
The stunning print of the Main Hall of the Sensoji Temple, tells that it was destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt in 1964 of ferro-concrete, a far cry of the materials which would have been used by the original builders. The print is representative of time long gone and is also representative of the original structure.
As a collection it is wonderful, with the added bonus of not just being able to enjoy the prints, reflect on the craftsmanship but to be able to also reflect that the age of tourism and memento collection in not something new, it has been around for a very long time.
The prints created then to cater for the tourism boom, along with many others created as collectibles of events such as “the Great Wave” by Hokusai, are now considered great works of art, a visual representation of life in Japan during the eighteenth century onward.
Whether you are a modern day traveller heading to Japan, an armchair traveller, a Japan-ophille, an artist or art student ,or simply a lover of beautiful things, you will enjoy your trip into the history of Japan, through the eyes of those who have gone before and in their art, leaving a legacy of beauty and detail for all to enjoy.