During the early 19th century travel for pleasure became more accessible, especially amongst Japan’s increasingly wealthy urban citizens looking for an escape from everyday life. This aspiration of leisure travel was in part stimulated by the appearance of guidebooks featuring illustrations of famous places which would popularise travel in general. However, travel of any kind was still not without its challenges – poor weather and difficult terrain were most likely enough to deter many would-be travellers, who were happy to participate vicariously through books and prints.
By the 1830s printed images of landscapes as well as scenes of famous places had become very popular and a boom in landscape prints occurred. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) were at the forefront of the genre producing iconic images that became of focal interest to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters in the West.
The genre was continued into the 20th century by a new group of artists including Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) who were part of the Shin-hanga (“new prints”) movement which sought to revitalise the tradition of woodblock printing rooted in the ukiyo-e of the Edo and Meiji periods (17th – 19th century).