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Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo, approx. 1868–1875

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo, by Utagawa Yoshitora (Japanese, active 18361870s),  approx. 18681875. Woodblock print; triptych; Ink and colors on paper. Gift of Mr. Richard Gump, B81D1.a-.c.

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo, by Utagawa Yoshitora (Japanese, active 1836-1870s),  approx. 1868-1875. Woodblock print; triptych; Ink and colors on paper. Gift of Mr. Richard Gump, B81D1.a-.c.

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo, by Utagawa Yoshitora (Japanese, active 1836-1870s),  approx. 1868-1875. Woodblock print; triptych; Ink and colors on paper. Gift of Mr. Richard Gump, B81D1.a-.c.

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo

Picture of Steam Locomotive Trains in Tokyo, by Utagawa Yoshitora (Japanese, active 1836-1870s),  approx. 1868-1875. Woodblock print; triptych; Ink and colors on paper. Gift of Mr. Richard Gump, B81D1.a-.c.

After 1868, the Japanese government embarked on a program of rapid modernization intended to create an industrialized state on a par with those of Western powers. Improvements to the transportation network included the construction of a new railway line between Tokyo and Yokohama. Tens of thousands of spectators attended the inauguration of the new railway in the fall of 1872. Demand for pictures of the new trains was high in the early 1870s.

This woodblock-printed triptych features two steam locomotive trains near the newly constructed trestle bridge at Takanawa, in Tokyo’ s  south end. Although most early rail passengers in Japan were Westerners, the artist playfully filled the two railway carriages at the right with Japanese women wearing elaborate hairstyles. Unfortunately, the beauties are at risk; their train appears headed for a collision with another coming from the opposite direction.