Hiroshige made the trip from Edo to Kyoto in the waning days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which had kept Japan virtually isolated from the rest of the world for 250 years.  But changes were taking place as the merchant class grew increasingly powerful.  Still, commoners kept to their position, and people were generally satisfied with their times.  Their lively customs and manners are frequently featured in Hiroshiges work. Japan today seems far removed from the country depicted in Hiroshiges work.  Yet in spite of the obvious changes, much of what he depicted is still very much part of Japanese life, and therefore essential to understanding the country and its people.