“Night snow at Kanbara”, Hiroshige postcard reproduction, c. 1940.

1940sArts & Culture
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“Night snow at Kanbara”, a ukiyo-e postcard reproduction published by S. Watanabe, c. 1940, from the seminal Hiroshige Ando work The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō completed after his first travel along the Tōkaidō in 1832. Kanbara was the 15th Station (juku) of the famed Edo era highway, located in what is now Shizuoka Prefecture. It is said that Hiroshige sometimes relied on on existing prints and guidebooks as models for some of his depictions. It seems likely that he mistakenly used an image of a very different Kanbara: the one depicted here is probably a village in the very mountainous Gunma prefecture near the resort town of Karuizawa, a far distance from the Tokaido, rather than the less mountainous, seaside locale of Kanbara-juku, one of the 53 station of the Tokaido.

“The only colours in the image are worn by the three people. We have an almost physical sensation of the silence emanating from the scene, from the cold serenity of the landscape immersed in the evening light. It seems as though time has stopped. The houses too, their roofs blanketed in white, appear to belong to another world, to a fairy-tale dimension.

“Two stooping figures move slowly uphill, two patches of barely accentuated colour. But our attention goes to the third person, standing still, leaning on a walking stick under a half-closed umbrella, enrapt in the enchanted radiance of the snow. He has stopped.

“Before the unreal beauty of the snow-covered landscape and the reality of the hushed silence that amplifies the perception of solitude, he feels compelled to stop and listen and discern a more deeply enduring splendour within himself.”

Hiroshige: The Master of Nature, by Gian Carlo Calza, 2009

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