Who Was Hiroshige?

By Talia Zitner

Back in November, we were lucky enough to visit an exhibit at George Washington University about Japanese artist, Hiroshige. I didn’t fully understand how big of a deal this guy really was until we started studying him in my AP world history class. Known for his colorful woodblock prints, Hiroshige can perhaps be considered one of the most important artists of the Edo period.

Born in 1797, Hiroshige (born Ando Hiroshige) lived in Edo, Japan, which is now Tokyo. He was the son of the warden of the Edo fire brigade, and the job was eventually passed down to him after his father resigned following the death of his mother, all while Hiroshige was around 12 years old. However, his father died shortly after as well, and Hiroshige began to pursue his passion for art. He entered the school of the ukiyo-e master Utagawa Toyohiro. After gaining his school license at age 15, Hiroshige would not be recognized for his work until six years later, in 1818.

Eventually, Hiroshige passed his position as fire warden onto his own son. He devoted himself to his art. His work can be divided into three categories:

  • The Student Period (1811-1830): Hiroshige followed the work of others, mainly focusing on figure prints of girls, actors, samurai, and warriors.
  • The Landscape Period (1830-1844): He created his own ideal of landscape design, including many bird-and-flower prints. This culminated in perhaps his most famous venture, Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, and other Japanese landscapes.
  • Last Period (1844 to 1858): This was his later period focused on landscapes and figure-with-landscapes prints. Unfortunately, overpopularity and overproduction diminished the value of his work.

Hiroshige is credited with over 5,000 prints, and as many as 10,000 copies made of his woodblocks. In 1832 he made a trip between Edo and Kyōto along the highway called the Tōkaidō. He stayed at the 53 overnight stations along the road and made numerous sketches of everything he saw. These sketches eventually were made into prints known as the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. The success of this series was immediate and made Hiroshige one of the most popular artists of all time. Hiroshige died on October 12th, 1858. He died in the midst of a Cholera epidemic.

The photos included below are from the exhibit we attended, and they are scenes from Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. The exhibit was really interesting because I had not been exposed to this type of art before, and it was really cool to see it up close and in person!

Talia Hiroshige-2

Talia Hiroshige-1


Katakana Study Tips

By Raven Bluford

Learning Katakana proved to be quite difficult because almost none of the symbols looked the same and those that looked the same proved difficult to distinguish. One thing that really helped me was to relate the symbol to an action in English that made the same sound or a very similar sound.

For example, for “su,” the action I had for that symbol was a person opening their mouth to eat soup and the soup had gone down the mouth. The sound sou in “soup” sounds the same as “su,” so that is how I remembered it. I remembered another symbol in relation to this concept for the symbol for “nu.” The action I had for “nu” was someone with their mouth open eating a noodle and the noodle was on its way down the mouth. The sound noo in “noodle” sounds the same as “nu” and that is how I remembered this symbol.


By Jenny Jimenez

On November 30th, our Japanese class went to Youth For Understanding’s headquarters to participate in the World Food Day Campaign by Table for Two! Youth For Understanding is an international organization that sends students in exchange programs all over the world and they allowed our Japanese + class to make onigiri in their kitchen!

Onigiri is the Japanese word for rice ball and we learned that our class would participate in creating these rice balls and that if we posted an image of our onigiri creations on social media with the hashtag #OnigiriAction, food would be provided to other people in African countries with our support. Onigiri was chosen because, as research shows, Japanese food is healthy and rice is a product that fills you up when you eat it. We learned about how to form the rice ball as well as the toppings that can go on the onigiri. The most popular topping was nori or seaweed; personally I liked eating my onigiri with tuna! Our teacher also mentioned that a popular topping in Japan was pickled plums. A couple students, including myself, tried eating the pickled plums, only to find that they were really sour, yet they had honey in them!

Some of the more creative students made onigiri with designs like cats, pandas and other animals or characters. Two students, Skyy and Amee, won the “Most Creative Onigiri Award” with onigiri that looked like the character Pucca and also a crying man!

A lot of students loved our onigiri making day because we were able to express our creativity as well as learning about Japanese food!

Below are images of our winners Skyy and Amee with their onigiri as well as my own onigiri! Congratulations to them for winning the award!!