Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 – October 12, 1858) was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist, and one of the last great artists in that tradition. He was born in 1797 and named "Ando Tokutaro" in the Yayosu barracks, just east of Edo Castle in the Yaesu area of Edo (present-day Tokyo). His father was Ando Gen'emon, a hereditary retainer (of the doshin rank) of the shogun. An official within the fire-fighting organization whose duty was to protect Edo Castle from fire, Gen'emon and his family, along with 30 other samurai, lived in one of the 10 barracks; although their salary of 60 koku marked them as a minor family, it was a stable position, and a very easy one — Professor Seiichiro Takahashi characterizes a fireman's duties as largely consisting of revelry. The 30 samurai officials of a barracks, including Gen'emon, oversaw the efforts of the 300 lower-class workers who also lived within the barracks. A few scraps of evidence indicate he was tutored by another fireman who taught him in the Chinese-influenced Kano school of painting.
Legend has it that Hiroshige determined to become a ukiyo-e artist when he saw the prints of his near-contemporary, Hokusai. (Hokusai published some of his greatest prints, such as Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, in 1832—the year Hiroshige devoted himself full-time to his art.) From then to Hokusai's death in 1849, their landscape works competed for the same customers.
This print shows travelers and porters crossing a steep pass in the mountains at the Hakone station on the Tokaido Road. The print is in excellent condition, and I have removed only a few small spots, so the grain of the paper is very clear.