There’s just four days left to see the woodblock print exhibition Ukiyo-e Par Excellence. Assistant Curator Sawako Chang selected some of the “greatest hits” from our Edo period woodblock print collection. One of them is this dramatic composition by Utagawa Hiroshige from his celebrated series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.”

A large golden eagle descends towards the icy waters off the Fukunaga Plain’s desolate coast. The sharp contrast between the flat, expansive land fading into the distance and the extreme close-up of the bird of prey is a device Hiroshige repeatedly uses in this series.

The double-peaked mountain on the far right is identified as Mt. Tsukuba. Its unique shape suggests a connection to the sacred Buddhist mountain Ryöjusen (Sanskrit: grdhraküta, literally, “Sacred Eagle Mountain”), where Shakyamuni is said to have preached. Shiba Kökan (1747-1818), a Western-style painter of the Edo period, depicted the mountain in his work—which Hiroshige might have seen—as having double peaks.

Utagawa Hiroshige (17971858)
Fukagawa Susaki and Jümantsubo
, from the series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”
Japan, Edo period, 1857
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
35.5 x 24.4 cm
Honolulu Academy of Arts: Gift of James A. Michener, 1959