Alluring Japanese art: Rivers and the sea amid falling snow

by | Jun 13, 2022 | Maritime Art, Culture and History

There is something inexplicably beautiful about snowy landscapes. This is not the only reason, though, that they figure prominently in traditional Japanese art. For the Japanese, snow is a symbol of purity. The following traditional snowscapes all feature a river or the sea. They reflect the Japanese sense of connectivity with nature; their view of  nature as intertwined with the world of the spirit; and their Buddhist-inspired notion of the transience of things.

The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth.

— Yasunari Kawabata, ‘Snow Country’

Ushibori, 1930
Colour woodcut
Kawase Hasui (Japanese, 1883–1957)
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Evening Snow Blending River and Sky from the Eight Views of Xiao and Xiang Rivers, 1615-1868 (Edo period)
Album leaf remounted as a hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Tani Buncho (Japanese, 1763-1841)
Courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art

“Jumantsubo Plain at Fukagawa Susaki,” from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1856
Woodblock print
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Snow on New Year’s Day at Susaki (Susaki yuki no hatsuhi), from the series “Famous Views of the Eastern Capital (Toto Meisho)”, 1826–1836
Colour woodblock print
Utagawa Hiroshige Japanese, 1797–1858
Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago


More beautiful Japanese art in

Beauty and terror: Ocean waves in Japanese art

Actual View of Muro Harbor, Banshu Province (Banshu Muro-tsu shinkei) from the series “One Hundred Famous Views in the Various Provinces (Shokoku meisho hyakkei)”, 1859
Colour woodblock print
Utagawa Hiroshige II (Japanese, 1826–1869)
Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Snowy Morning at Susaki from the Letter-Sheet Set, c.1839-1840 (Edo Period)
Woodblock colour print
Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando) (Japanese, 1797–1858
Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

Snow in Mukojima, published in 1931
Woodblock print
Hasui Kawase (Japanese, 1883–1957)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

~ Barista Uno

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