Hiroshige’s 36 Views of Mt Fuji

After my 2013 trip to Japan I wrote haiku in response to a series of ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating-world”) woodblock prints by the great Japanese artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) and also in response to the death of my mother in 2012. The order of the prints and poems is that of an 1858 edition of the prints. Although Hiroshige and his Mt Fuji prints are perhaps less famous than Hokusai and his, they also are extraordinary. Compare the colorations, and I think you will see why. Mt Fuji, of course, is the iconic Japanese volcano, standing tall at 12,388 feet (3,776 m) and still active even though the last eruption was in 1707.

1. ICHIKOBU BRIDGE, 
EASTERN CAPITAL
(EDO/TOKYO)


A weeping willow
Bridges like an Escher
Mt Fuji in red

2. SURUGA STREET, 
EASTERN CAPITAL (EDO/TOKYO)

Musical parade
I could use some cheer now
Three birds and two trees

3. SUKIYAGASHI (MOAT AROUND
CASTLE), EASTERN CAPITAL
(EDO/TOKYO)

Everything’s buried
Under a blanket of snow
Except the water

4. DISTANT VIEW
FROM TSUKUDA ISLAND, 
EASTERN CAPITAL (EDO/TOKYO)

Fuji, red, and green
Birds and boats and grass and fish
Hiroshige’s mark

5. OCHANOMIZU (TEA-WATER)
CANAL, EASTERN CAPITAL
(EDO/TOKYO)

Just one bird, two boats
Four pillars under a bridge
I long to be held

6. RYOGOKU BRIDGE,
EASTERN CAPITAL (EDO/TOKYO)

Another willow
Everything reminds of her
Mt Fuji grows old


7. SUMIDA RIVER BANK, 

EASTERN CAPITAL (EDO/TOKYO)

Kimonoed women
Two cherry trees in blossom
Stupa and Fuji

8. MT ASUKA, 
EASTERN CAPITAL (EDO/TOKYO)

Can’t see Fuji here
The lush green foreground stands out
Are those cherry trees?

9. TEAHOUSE, ZOSHIGAYA

One persimmon tree
Two women standing under
Three’s a crowd right now


10. TWILIGHT HILL, 

MEGURO, EASTERN CAPITAL
(EDO/TOKYO)

Fuji’s white today
The leaves are yellow and brown
Will they try to fly?

11. KONODAI
AND THE TONE RIVER 

Shall I follow you
Along this serene river
Or climb Mt Fuji?

12. KOGANEI,
MUSASHI PROVINCE

I cannot say what’s
Always in your Views or not
In just one haiku

Mt Fuji, of course
You don’t paint the moon or sun
Greens are everywhere

People all but twice
You don’t paint the moon or sun
Water all but once

I cannot say what’s
Always in your Views or not
In just one haiku

13. TAMA RIVER,
MUSASHI PROVINCE

Almost at the end
Will the grieving ever end?
Man and boy fishing

14. KOSHIGAYA,
MUSASHI PROVINCE

I think of you here
And every where that I look
You are my mother

15. YOKOHAMA BAY,
MUSASHI PROVINCE


Boats with snowy sails
A mountain blue as the sea
Hills with snowy peaks

16. DISTANT CHERRY BLOSSOMS,
HONMOKU, 
MUSASHI PROVINCE

Ripples on the sea
Vertical cliff on the right
Sunset or sunrise?

17. SEA OFF MIURA PENINSULA, 
SAGAMI PROVINCE

Where are they going
Ten sailboats in the distance
What are they doing?

18. SAGAMI RIVER

Two men pole their rafts
I am used to being alone
Smoke, three birds, bamboo

19. SHICHIRIGAHAMA BEACH,
SAGAMI PROVINCE


Two small children walk
Water covers everything
One small child grows old

20. GATE TO ENOSHIMA,
SAGAMI PROVINCE


Fuji draped in white
Three generations’ women
Framed by a Torii

21. LAKE AT HAKONE

The rocks look like boats
I went to Lake Hakone
To help it fill up

22. MOUNTAINS, 
IZU PENINSULA

You paint green and white
Hokusai paints blue and white
River without end

23. SATTA POINT, SURUGA BAY

This great wave is not
So great as to sink the ship
Or wet those thirteen birds

24. PINE FOREST, SURUGA BAY

Fuji dominates
Ah–magnificent forest
Sailboats on the sea

25. TOKAIDO HIGHWAY

I was on this road
And didn’t see Mt Fuji
Nor the rice farmers

26. OI RIVER BETWEEN 
SURUGA AND TOTOMI PROVINCES

How did Mt Fuji
Become mountain of mountains?
Men ferry women

27. MARRIED-COUPLE ROCKS,
FUTAMI BAY, ISE PROVINCE

Shrines, sails, and rocks
Today I began to cry
Mother’s now a bird

28. SUWA LAKE, 
SHINANO PROVINCE

What is there in life
Permanent as a mother
But is she really?

29. SHIOJIRI PASS, 
SHINANO PROVINCE

There’s the V of geese
Are you walking on that path?
Fuji’s nondescript

30. MISAKA PASS, 
KAI PROVINCE

Mt Fuji looms large
I loom very small today
Hidden in sadness

31. OTSUKI PLAIN, 
KAI PROVINCE

The same bird is there
Watching a wandering stream
Perhaps I should leave

32. INUME PASS, 
KAI PROVINCE

There—a flock of birds
Winging across Mt Fuji
Where should I go now?

33. KOGANE PLAIN, 
SHIMOSA PROVINCE

One horse steals the show
The second nods to Fuji
O the red flowers!

34. KUROTO BAY, 
KAZUSA PROVINCE

Night is on its way
Three kinds of boats on the lake
So green is the shore

35. MT ROKUSU, 
KAZUSA PROVINCE

Cedar dwarfs Fuji
A small child with its mother
Donkey with her load

36. HOTA COAST, 
AWA PROVINCE

What a beautiful
Set of waves and crumbling cliff
Now swim for your life