Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 / Toyokuni III 三代歌川豊国 (1786–1865)
From the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō with Beauties
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1848
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of Dr. & Mrs. C. M. Cooke, 1935

As the junction of the Tōkaidō highway and its safer alternate route, dubbed the Himekaidō (literally, “princess route”) for its frequent use by female travellers, Goyu, the thirty-fifth station on the Tōkaidō, was particularly popular. Inns lined the streets, their “serving-girls” (prostitutes) hoping to prosper from the city’s steady flow of tourists. Competition was fierce, however, and as Hiroshige illustrated in his comical depiction of the town, the frank, business-minded women were known to literally grab passersby and drag them into establishments. Such behavior was so common that travel guides offered advice about how to stealthily navigate through the city without being accosted.

The woman added by Kunisada posing demurely in the foreground, reminiscent of those Yoshiwara prostitutes who aroused clients through their aloofness, stands in stark contrast to the sadly realistic scene behind her.

View info on museum database (enabled through support by the Robert F. Lange Foundation)