Togetsu Bridge at Arashiyama in Yamashiro, c1827-1834

This Japanese woodblock print was created by the great ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. It shows a wooden bridge spanning a river, with Arashiyama mountain in the background.

What can we see?

Sightseeing

Several people are venturing across the bridge. A couple have stopped halfway along to take in the view. A bamboo raft is travelling downstream and is about to pass underneath.

On the far bank, the rocky shoreline is smattered with pine and cherry trees. Can you see the buildings nestled in the mountains? Shrouded within the clouds, they are likely to be part of the Shingon Buddhist temple, Hōrin-ji.

Why is this bridge so ‘remarkable’?

This print was published as part of a series entitled Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces (Shokoku meikyō kiran).

Built in the Heian period, this wooden bridge has spanned the Katsura river for over 400 years. Togetsu translates as “reflected moon” but this famous Kyoto landmark is also known as the Moon Crossing bridge.

Here, Hokusai has captured the stunning spring cherry blossoms, but this beauty spot is also renowned for its vivid autumn colours.

Why so blue?

In this particular print, the natural yellow-coloured pigments have disappeared over time.  The once green mountains have faded to blue, and the riverbanks have lost their distinction.

The remaining blue and pink shades give the picture a dream-like quality. Lovely as that is, it is not quite what Hokusai intended!

Marks and signature

The oblong cartouche is the series title and the bridge name. To the left of the cartouche is one of Hokusai’s many signatures- it reads ‘Saki no Hokusai Iitsu hitsu’ which translates as ‘From the brush of Iitsu, the former Hokusai’.

Author: Fiona Story, Creative Programme Officer

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