In 2012 I saw an exhibition of Hiroshige Utagawa’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido prints in Sydney and was amazed at the vibrant colours and detailed depictions of rural Japan life around 1830.
Museums and galleries around the world proudly boast Hiroshige’s work. The heat and humidity of Shizuoka in June wasn’t going to put me off from spending some quality time at the Shizuoka City Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Art in Yui.
The high standard of this art is one thing, but I have to say that the importance placed on my visit by the Museum staff was truly sensational. I am just a guy from Australia, popping in for an hour. Why should they care too much?
In all trips to Japan, whether with family members, football travelers, friends we have always made a genuine effort to be courteous, interested in culture and history, and respectful of traditions.
So maybe my genuine interest is written on my face. The ticket seller was a little puzzled as to why I had come to the Museum. The fact I knew of Hiroshige’s work broadly drew a surprised smile, and an apology that there were no English captions on the displayed works, or the other fascinating exhibition about the process of wood block print making.
But art from a master does not need words to be enjoyed.
No sooner had I entered a room solely of Hiroshige prints then a young man joined me. In broken English he explained that he was the Curator of this exhibition, having been advised that there was a visitor. So happy was he that I had taken the time to visit that he offered me a special postcard print – one he said was only for special visitors.
So this is the card I was presented. As a special visitor. It is one of the Fifty-Three Stations showing Yui, with a fine view of Fuji, snow covered, from Satta-toge, overlooking Saruga Bay. This rugged mountain pass commanded the most magnificent view of the whole highway.
I am privileged to have been given this card, which will soon be framed as a token of goodwill and a permanent reminder of a special hour.
Yes, it is a bit of a trek to get to this Museum, being a good 20 minutes walk from JR Yui station between Numazu and Shizuoka. Yui still retains elements from the Edo period, including the Honjin Memorial Hall. It is well worth the effort.
The photo below is taken in the foyer of the Museum, with my big head blocking a fair chunk of the print.
For more information about Hiroshige Utagaw and wood block prints, see the Museum website at Shizuoka City Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum