CHAPTER 13: THE THIRTY-SIX VIEWS OF FUJI
Even as Fuji is the dominating feature in the landscape of southern Japan, so is it also the ever-recurring theme in Japanese pictorial art.
If Hiroshige made his name amongst the artists of Ukiyoye by his scenes on the Tokaido, Hokusai, his fellow-artist in the realm of landscape, is entitled to an equal, if not a higher place, even if he had done nothing beyond his incomparable views of Fuji.
The series of
Thirty-six Views of Fuji (with its ten supplementary
views really forty-six) by Hokusai constitutes one of his two greatest
works, the other being the extremely rare series of ten very large upright
The Imagery of the Poets. The rarity of this
latter series may be gauged from the fact that a complete set, in exceptionally
fine condition, fetched £340 in the Happer sale as far back as 1909,
and would realize considerably more to-day. Each print of the series is
illustrated in the catalogue of this sale.
In looking over Hokusai's designs one is at once struck by their infinite variety. Fuji is depicted in calm and storm, in mist and bright sunlight; sometimes dominating the whole scene, at others receding to a mere speck in the distance. Plates Nos. 4 and 18 of the series give a good idea of such contrasts. In the former it is dwarfed by distance to a speck on the horizon; in the latter it towers up into the sky, filling the background, the monarch of all it surveys. Plates Nos. 11 and 24 (here illustrated) also show Hokusai's contrasting treatment of his subject.
Another point one will notice is the simplicity of the colour-scheme employed, green, blue, yellow, and brown, laid on in large masses. Sometimes all four colours are used, sometimes only three of them. The result is very bold and effective.
Impressions of this series vary very considerably, the colour-scheme being quite different in different copies; some are in blue outline, some in black, while copies of the same print will be found in both variations.
The following are the views constituting this series, and the order given is that universally accepted nowadays, corresponding with that given by M. de Goncourt in his work on Hokusai. In the British Museum catalogue they are arranged according to locality.
Publisher YEIJUDO, whose seal in red occurs on the face of the print, but while its presence generally denotes a first edition, its absence does not of necessity imply a late issue.
No. 1. Fuji seen from Ejiri, Province of Suruga, across rice-fields, on a windy day, and travellers struggling against the gale.
No. 2. Fuji seen from Ono Shinden, Province of Suruga, across the water, its base enveloped in mist; in the foreground coolies leading oxen laden with bundles of straw.
No. 3. Fuji seen from the tea-fields of Katakura, Province of Suruga, where women are picking tea and coolies carrying it into the store sheds; beyond rises Fuji, snow-covered from base to summit, into a deep blue sky. This view exhibits a different colour-scheme to the usual prevailing tints, yellow and a light brick-red predominating.
No. 4. Fuji seen through the circle of a large tub, the seams of which a man is caulking, from Fujimigahara, Province of Owari. (Reproduced in On Collecting Japanese Colour-Prints, 1917.)
No. 5. Fuji seen from Ko-ishi-kawa, Province of Yedo, in the depth of winter, across a landscape covered in snow, and people in a tea-house admiring it.
No. 6. Fuji seen at a great distance from the beach at Todo through one of two torii standing in the water, and people gathering shellfish.
No. 7. Fuji seen from the banks of the Minobu River, along which coolies and horses are passing. On the further side rugged crags tower up from the mist, showing between them a glimpse of the white crest of Fuji.
No. 8. Fine weather on the slopes of Fuji, which raises its red, snowstreaked peak into a blue sky flecked with white fleecy clouds, gradually melting towards its base into the green of the forest below. Considered one of the three masterpieces of the whole series, which are most sought after by collectors, the other two being the Great Wave, No. 20, and the following plate (No. 9).
There is in existence a very rare variant of this plate in which the chief differences are fewer white clouds, and the lower slopes of the mountain strong blue instead of green.
No. 9. Fuji in a thunderstorm, with lightning playing round its base.
There is also a very rare second state of this plate in which tops of trees appear on the lower slopes of Fuji, thereby somewhat spoiling the effect of a design notable for its simplicity and grandeur.
No. 10. Pilgrims making an ascent of the mountain and others assembled in prayer in a cave above. In foreground a man mounts a steep place by means of a ladder.
No. 11. Fuji seen from Narumi, in Province of Kazusa, on the horizon, and two junks in full sail, one filling the whole foreground of the view. (See Plate 15.)
No. 12. Fuji seen from Ushibori, Province of Hitachi, over a large junk moored against the bank in the foreground, rising above the water reeds into a deep blue sky shading off into white at the top. Printed almost entirely in blue, in various tints, this plate is one of the best in the series. (See Plate 15.)
No. 13. Fuji seen from Lake Suwa, Province of Shinano; a thatched hut under two pine trees, on a rocky promontory, in foreground. Another fine plate. Printed in blue.
No. 14. A print in blue and grey. Fuji seen from the Totomi Mountains, through a trestle supporting a huge square log which men are sawing into planks, one kneeling below and the other standing on top of it; on left, a third man sharpening a saw, and underneath the log a fourth sitting by a fire, the smoke of which trails upwards to the right. Another very favourite view.
In early impressions the log is tinted a slight pink colour, in later ones it is white.
No. 15. Fuji from the Onden water-wheel, which projects from a thatched shed on the left.
No. 16. Fuji seen from Inume Pass, Kai Province, a long green ridge sloping up towards the right with travellers, followed some distance behind by two packhorses, making their way up it. Across the valley filled with white mist rises a brown and blue Fuji, its summit white with snow and its sides snow-flecked. Sky streaked with orangecoloured cloud.
No. 17. Fuji reflected in Lake Misaka, Province of Kai. Green indented shores of a calm lake with yellow thatched roofs amongst the trees, and Fuji rising beyond, reflected in the water. Blue outline.
No. 18. Fuji seen from the Pass of Mishima, in the Province of Kahi, with its crest wreathed in a light cloud, and clouds rising behind its base, while in the foreground, as if challenging comparison with the peerless mountain, stands a huge tree, the giant of the forest, and three men, like pigmies, are endeavouring, with outstretched arms, to encircle its girth. Another magnificent plate. (See Plate 15.)
No. 19. Fuji seen from Isawa, Kai Province, at daybreak, rising out of the mists; in the foreground, a street between two rows of houses still closed, and travellers setting forth.
No. 20. Fuji seen across the inlet of Kanagawa, and a huge wave about to envelop three boats and their helpless crews. Reprints and reproductions of this plate are common. Good impressions of original copies should show some slightly tinted clouds in the upper part of the sky, which do not appear in late impressions nor in reprints.
No. 21. Fuji, its crest white with snow, seen through a row of pines by the edge of the road, from Hodogaya on the Tokaido, and travellers, one on horseback, passing along the highway.
No. 22. Fuji seen from a tea-house at Yoshida on the Tokaido, and a waitress pointing it out to two ladies who have been brought thither in a kago. This plate is hardly up to the standard of the other views in the series.
No. 23. Fuji seen from the ford over the Oi River at Kanaya on the Tokaido, with people being carried across on the backs of coolies, and gangs of men carrying norimon.
No. 24. A blue Fuji with its crest in white towering up behind green hills shrouded in yellow mists, overlooking the shore at Tago, near Ejiri; while in the foreground two large junks, and others beyond, are being beached stern foremost. Prevailing colours of yellow, blue, and green. One of the best plates in the series. (See Plate E, page 60.)
No. 25. Fuji seen in the distance from Enoshima, and a cluster of houses in green woods with the pagoda of the shrine of Benten rising above the foliage and people wending their way to it. Blue outline.
No. 26. Fuji from Nakabara, Province of Soshu. Coolies passing across a low plank bridge by a small stone wayside shrine on the edge of a stream, and a man fishing with a net close by.
No. 27. Fuji from Shichiri-ga-hama (
The Seven Ri Coast), Province
of Soshu. A print in dark bluish-green, with a snow-capped Fuji showing
on right of clump of trees, and curious white clouds on the horizon on
left. Blue outline.
No. 28. Fuji from Hakone Lake, Province of Sagami. Rounded green hills rise up from the tree-fringed shores of Hakone Lake, between which, in the distance, rises the cone of Fuji.
No. 29. Fuji from Umesawa, Province of Sagami. A deep blue mountain, graded lighter towards the crater, green forests at its base; cranes in the foreground, and two flying towards the crater. Dense clouds encroaching from either side upon the mountain. A somewhat uninteresting plate in prevailing green and blue.
No. 30. Fuji seen from the timber-yard at Honjo, Yedo; in foreground a man sawing a log, and on the left another throwing up billets to a third standing on the top of a pile of logs for stacking.
No. 31. Fuji seen through the piers of the Mannen Bridge over the Fuka River; people passing over the bridge, a laden barge on the water, and a man fishing.
No. 32. Fuji from the pagoda of the
Five-Hundred Rakan at
Yedo; people admiring the view from a balcony adjoining the temple, and
a man pointing the mountain out to them.
No. 33. Fuji seen across the ancient pine of Aoyama, whose trailing branches are supported on trestles; low-lying mists intervening, and a party picnicking on the hill-side.
No. 34. A solitary fisherman at Kajikasawa, Kai Province, standing on a rock jutting out over the waves and hauling in his lines, the outline of the peak of Fuji appearing beyond above the mist. One of the favourite views of the series. Blue outline.
No. 35. Fuji just visible from Shimo Meguro, a small village in the hills near Yedo. This view having no strongly marked features is difficult to describe in words.
No. 36. Fuji seen from Senju, a suburb of Yedo, and two men fishing at a weir, another leading a horse.
No. 37. Another view of Fuji from Senju, looking across the Yoshiwara; two women watching a daimyo's procession passing.
No. 38. Fuji seen from Tsukuda-jima, an island at the mouth of the Sumida River, rising above green hills on the further bank, and white clouds, printed in gauffrage, rolling along the horizon. Another very fine view. (See Plate 15.)
No. 39. Fuji seen across the Tama River, in the Province of Musashi, with a wide band of mist stretching across from side to side below the snow-capped crater; a laden boat crossing the stream, and on the near bank a man leading a horse with faggots on its back. A favourite plate.
No. 40. A distant view of Fuji from Gotenyama, at Shinagawa on the Tokaido; in the foreground, cherry trees in blossom and people admiring them.
No. 41. Fuji appearing over the roofs of warehouses along the banks of a canal, at the end of which rise, above the mists and trees, the towers of the Uyeno Temple; in the foreground, the Nihon Bridge crowded with coolies and porters. A fine plate. Blue outline. (See Plate E, page 60.)
No. 42. Fuji seen from Suruga Street, Yedo, between the tops of roofs, on one of which on the right are workmen making repairs; kites flying.
A view of the celebrated drapery shop of Mitsui, whose trademark,
three wells), appears on signboards.
No. 43. Fuji seen across the house-tops in the distance from Suruga-dai, a hill in the centre of Yedo; coolies and others passing in the foreground. A composition mainly in green and brown.
No. 44. Fuji seen from the Buddhist Temple of Hong-wan-ji at Asakusa, Yedo. The roof of the temple on right, clouds over the roofs of the city below, kites flying, and a high trestle fire-outlook tower rising through the clouds on the left. Blue outline.
No. 45. Fuji at evening beyond the Ryogoku Bridge, Yedo; in the foreground a large ferry-boat, and beyond it the long line of the bridge stretching across from bank to bank and Fuji terminating it in the distance.
No. 46. A distant view of Fuji, red with the rays of the setting sun, from the village of Seki-ya, on the Sumida River, rising above the mists over a flat landscape; in the foreground, three horsemen riding along a curved embankment against a gale of wind. Blue outline.
The foregoing series was issued between the years 1823 and 1829; Hiroshige
designed a series of
Thirty-six Views of Fuji, upright, which
was issued in 1859 by the publisher Koyeido. On the
published on completion of the series, is a list of contents giving the
order of the various plates, and a preface, written by Santei Shumba.
In this preface occurs the following interesting passage :
Hiroshige came to the publisher with 'Thirty-six Views of Fuji,' which
he said was his last work, and asked him to engrave them. It was the beginning
of last autumn (i.e. 1858), and at the close of the autumn he died, aged
62. Hiroshige's words had an unforeseen prophetic truth, as he did
not like to see them completed, some of the views, by reason of the crudeness
of their design, being obviously the work of his pupil, Hiroshige II.
The first edition, which is rare - late, poorly printed copies largely
outnumbering the good ones - was very carefully printed
commemoration of the artist, and as such takes high place amongst
the various upright series designed by Hiroshige. (See foot-note at page
The views constituting this series are as follows :
No. 1. Fuji seen across the town from the Ichikoku Bridge, Yedo.
No. 2. Fuji seen from Suruga Street, Yedo. The corner of the street occupied by a drapery store; Manzai dancers passing, and two girls playing samisen.
No. 3. Fuji from the moat round Yedo Castle in the depth of winter. A very good snow scene.
On the right an angle of the moat-wall, grey and white, rises out of the blue water; beyond, a low stone causeway leading to a cluster of houses, and people crossing it. In the distance rises a pure white Fuji against a faint rosy sky, changing to blue above.
No. 4. Distant view of Fuji from Tsukuda-Oki, Yedo, with junks moored in the bay, and one in the foreground, close to a bank of reeds. Fuji should be slightly tinted grey in best impressions. A good plate. (See Plate 16.)
No. 5. View of Fuji from the Tea-water Canal, Yedo, with an enclosed water-conduit carried across it like a bridge.
No. 6. Fuji seen across Yedo from the Ryogoku Bridge; a woman in a boat alongside a landing stage talking to another standing on it under a willow tree.
A fine plate. Fuji should be slightly grey below and white above, rising out of purple mists above dark foothills into a graded blue sky above.
No. 7. A grey Fuji seen from the embankment of the Sumida River, along which two girls are walking under cherry trees.
No. 8. Fuji from Asuka-yama; view from a green field with cherry trees, and people walking about.
View of Fuji from the
Fuji View tea-house, Zoshiga-ya, on
high ground overlooking a stream running through rice-fields, and two
women admiring the view. Perhaps a plate by Hiroshige II.
No. 10. Fuji seen from Meguro Yukiga-oka, between two red maples on the high bank of a stream.
No. 11. Fuji rising through a crimson sky above low-lying mists and yellow plains with the winding Tone River in the foreground, and sailing junks on it. People standing under the trees on a high cliff, below which runs a path, overlooking the river.
No. 12. The cone of Fuji seen through the cleft in a tree-trunk beside a stream, from Kokanei, Province of Musashi.
No. 13. Considered one of the masterpieces of the series. Fuji seen from the Tama River, Province of Musashi. Fuji rises through purple mists and cloud above deep green hills, slightly touched with blue; in the foreground, two people crossing a low bridge over the shallow river by a willow tree, and in the distance people fishing from the bank. (See Plate 16.)
No. 14. Fuji from Koshiga-ya, Province of Musashi, rising above the surrounding hills, across the intervening river and fields; in the foreground, two cherry trees with red blossom just coming into leaf. A man in a punt on the river, and four people walking along the bank.
No. 15. A snow-white Fuji towering up into the sky and a cloud hanging on its slopes seen from Noge, Yokohama, lying at the head of an inlet up which junks are sailing, past a flat promontory covered with trees.
No. 16. Fuji seen from the sea at Honmaki, Musashi, and a perpendicular yellow and green cliff in the foreground, with trees on its summit, and a boat sailing past it.
No. 17. Similar to the last view. Fuji from the Sea of Miura, Province of Shoshu, its base wreathed in red clouds; in the foreground, cliffs crowned with trees.
No. 18. A grey Fuji with snowy cone seen above a green hill from the Sagami River, Province of Shoshu, and two men on rafts, the one in the foreground with a fire burning; herons flying above, and one alighting on the water by a clump of reeds.
A grey Fuji, its upper slopes and summit snow-covered, from the seashore
known as the
Seven Ri (about eighteen miles) beach, Shoshu
Province, and a man, followed by two children, passing a teahouse on the
beach in which two women are sitting. On the lanterns hung from the roof
of the tea-house appear Hiroshige's diamond seal,
the bay appears the island of Enoshima; behind it rise dark grey foothills
against a yellow sky, changing to blue above. (See Plate 16.)
No. 20. Fuji seen across Enoshima Bay through a large dark grey torii erected on the beach close to a tea-house which three women are approaching.
Across the deep blue water (graded lighter in the centre) is a coastline of low green hills backed by a higher dark grey range behind, above which towers Fuji, grey below, white above; purple sky on horizon, blue above. A very fine plate.
No. 21. Fuji from Lake Hakone, Soshu Province. Two arms of the lake with a promontory between them; yellow cliffs along the shore.
No. 22. Fuji, rising above white and purple mists, seen in the heart of the Izu Mountains, and a great waterfall in the foreground.
No. 23. Fuji seen from the coast at Satta Point, and a great wave breaking in on the shore. Considered the masterpiece of the whole series. (Reproduced in colours at Plate F, page 156.)
No. 24. A great grey-white Fuji rises up into a golden sky, seen from the promontory Miho-no-Matsubara, one of the stations of the Tokaido; ships sailing in the bay. Another masterpiece. (See Plate 16.)
No. 25. Fuji seen across rice-fields from the edge of a road lined with great pine trees, along which a woman and a priest, with shaven head, are passing, at Yoshiwara, on the Tokaido.
No. 26. Fuji seen in the distance from the ford over the Oi River, and women being carried across in kagos by coolies. A poor plate by Hiroshige II.
Fuji seen across a wide expanse of calm sea from the beach at Futami,
Ise Province, with the
husband and wife rocks in foreground.
No. 28. Fuji seen at the far end of Lake Suwa, Shinano Province, surrounded by mountains, and boats on it.
No. 29. Another, more distant, view of Fuji at the head of Suwa Lake, with the narrow road between steep hills leading down to it.
No. 30. A near view of Fuji across the Motosu Lake from Misaka Pass, Kai Province. A fine view.
Two travellers at the top of the pass in foreground, and another approaching from the lake beyond.
No. 31. Fuji rising above grey hills seen from a field, in which wild flowers and tall suzuki grass are growing, in the Plain of Otsuki, Kai Province.
No. 32. Fuji, from the Inume Pass, Kai Province, rising above other mountains overlooking a ravine through which the River Fuefuki flows, and clouds hanging over it. A plate probably by Hiroshige II; colouring crude.
No. 33. A distant view of Fuji seen across a flat plain with a small stream meandering through it, and two horses grazing, the one in the foreground blocking out half the view. A wretched plate, obviously the work of the second Hiroshige.
No. 34. Fuji, rising above dark foothills against a crimson sunset sky, changing to deep blue above, seen across the Bay of Kuroda, Province of Kazusa, with junks at anchor, and others sailing across.
Green shore in near foreground with a few small pine trees growing close to the water's edge. The sea should be deep blue at the edges of the coastline, only slightly tinted to white in centre.
No. 35. Fuji across Yedo Bay, seen from Rokusozan, Kazusa; a large tree in the foreground by the edge of the road, along which a woman on a led horse is passing under a torii. Probably by Hiroshige II.
No. 36. Fuji from the seashore at Hota, Boshu, showing the path running round a projecting headland and waves breaking on the shore; in foreground a bare-headed priest gazing across the bay at Fuji rising above purple mists. A good plate.