“The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido” series is one of the most widely portrayed by various authors specializing in landscapes views.
The editor Senzaburo Iibaya proposed to the greatest masters of the Utagawa school -Kunisada, Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi- to collaborate on a new series, where instead of depicting landscapes, the artists would illustrate some episodes related to scary stories or local legends traceable to the station to be depicted.
Among the three Kuniyoshi was the artists who best favored dynamic scenes with intense scenographic effect.
The greater number of prints he made than Kunisada and Hiroshige may also be due to the themes addressed in the series. Legends and stories of ghosts and monsters were one of the artist’s great interests.
Another of the great passions for which Kuniyoshi was known was his love of depicting cats; surely he would not have missed station number 21: Okabe, the story of the cat stone.
The temple garden was haunted by an old Bakeneko who, assuming the appearance of a caring old woman, would invite soft-fleshed young girls into a crumbling house under the pretense of offering them tea to refresh them a little from the fatigue of the journey.
Once trapped, the woman resumed her real form as a huge cat to devour the young girls.
There are many other curiosities about the illustrations of the 53 stations of Tokaido,
discover them in the book – Yōkai. Le Antiche Stampe dei Mostri Giapponesi – Published by Skira, for sale at our bookshop