Hiroshige's 'Toto Yukimi Hakkei (8 Snow Scenes of the Eastern Metropolis)'


A complete set of full-size images of impressions from the original blocks of the 1928 Shotaro Sato edition (albeit a later printing) of the masterful series '8 Snow Scenes of the Eastern Metropolis' by Hiroshige is shown here for public reference.

The Prints

Print Number Title (Japanese) Title (English) Full-Screen Image Full-Size Image
Scene A A Takanawa Yoru no Yuki A Snow Evening at Takanawa 96KB 226KB
Scene B B Ueno Toeizan Shinobazu-ike Toeizan Temple and Shinobazu Pond, Ueno 117KB 288KB
Scene C C Meguro Fudo Keidai Snow in the Grounds of the Fudo Shrine at Meguro 127KB 319KB
Scene D D Susaki Yuki no Asa Daybreak After a Snowfall at Susaki 98KB 235KB
Scene E E Asakusa Kinryuzan Snow Scene at Kinryuzan Buddist Temple, Asakusa District 129KB 320KB
Scene F F Sumidagawa Tsutsnmi no Kei View From the Sumida River Embankment 112KB 282KB
Scene G G Kasumigaseki no Yuki-agari Street View, Looking Down the Kasumigaseki After a Snowfall 120KB 296KB
Scene H H Ryogoku Yuki no Yugure Twilight View of the Snow-clad Ryogoku Bridge 101KB 235KB
This set was still in its original portfolio, including the sheet in English listing the images which accompanies the later sets, and apparently had a publication date of Showa 23, or 1948. The titles and nomenclature are exactly as given in the printed sheet.

(Thanks to Roberta and all the folks at Floating World Gallery for providing the scans.)

The First Publication

The story of the publication of this series is without doubt one of the strangest of all Hiroshige's works. It would be hard to imagine a finer description of the circumstances than that provided by the publisher, Mr. Shotaro Sato, and included on a descriptive sheet, which was included with complete sets of the 1928 edition of the series, in a specially designed portfolio:
It is with great pleasure that I announce the publication of a hitherto unknown series of eight prints by Hiroshige I, from the artist's original drawings in the possession of M. Emile Javal, a judge in the Civil Court of the Seine, Paris, France.

These drawings were executed in the priod between the last two years of Tempo to the end of Koka (1842-1847), which may be called Hiroshige's golden age when his art reached its fullest maturity. How it had been that they were not engraved and published but were carried away to Europe is an unexplained mystery. As they bear the impressions of the seal of the Nanbushi (ward head-man) Fuka-Tsu Ihei, who acted as the official censor of publications in the fourth and eleventh months of the years from 1840 to 1847, it is evident that their publications was intended and had been approved. In trying to account for the fact that following the censor's approval they were not handed to an engraver, I can only suggest that in some way, perhaps as a consequence of the death or failure of the Edo publisher for whom they were designed, they may have been bought by someone who took them to Nagasaki and sold them to a Dutch trader who sent or carried them to Holland, in the the days before the Meiji Restoration. Be that as it may, they are now precious possesions of M. Javal who showed them to me when I paid him a visit in 1927, and who graciously gave me his permission when asked for the privilege of puhlishing them.

As the drawings are in black and white only, and are without directions by Hiroshige for the coloring of the prints which should be worthy of him, they called for the exercise of painstaking care. The first step was to get together as many of his snow-scene prints as possible and to study his method of coloring them. The next step was to engage the services of Yujiro Maeda, the best print-block engraver in Japan, and Mr. Gasen Oiwa, the best printer, both of them highly skilled crafstmen who had experience in engraving the works of Seiho, Bakusen, Kampo, Suizan and Koei, all well-known Kyoto artists of the present day. Next, when the key-blocks had been engraved by Mr. Maeda, the advice of an artist who is a color-print expert was sought and many trial colorings were made in an endeavour to assimilate Hiroshige's coloring as closely as might be. This took much time, but at last for each of the eight subjects a color scheme was evolved which we venture to think he would have approved, and which we belive to be very nearly, if not exactly, what he would have designated. Finally, when the color-blocks had been engraved, Mr. Oiwa took the printing in hand and has spared no pains in his effort to produce prints that should rival those issued in Hiroshige's own lifetime.

These eight prints must surely rank among Hiroshige's acknowledged masterpieces. A foreign expert has said that 'Hiroshige was an artist of snow and rain'. He was certainly excelled in the representations of snow scenes, and these are in his very best manner. In my opinion there are no other works by him that more fully portray the varying moods of Edo in winter than do these prints. As a publisher I am proud and happy to be able to add one more to the series of eight wonderful prints by this great artist.

Shotaro Sato
Kyoto, July 1st, 1928

Later Impressions From the Original Shotaro Sato Blocks

It appears from material included with some of these sets that this initial printing in 1928 was a limited edition of 100 copies, and one presumes that it was initially intended that no more be produced.

Prints in major collections (including those in the Albuquerque Museum, those in the Van Vleck Collection at the Elvehjem Museum of Art, and a set from the library of the Fogg Museum, Boston sold by the dealer Bill Pinckard, which was set number 26) from this series, that seem to be from this original limited run, display a two-part seal in the right-hand margin.

However, it does appear that more copies were struck off these orginal blocks, shortly after World War II. According to sheets with publishing information included with some of these later sets, they were printed in Showa 21 and Showa 23, i.e. 1946 and 1948.

Two different publication information sheets have been discovered: one from Showa 23 is shown here, and the other, from Showa 21, can be seen here.

Interestingly, the latter sheet appears to be similar, but not identical, to the other one, apart from the dates! The names of the prints - the 8 rows of characters to the right of the vertical wavy line - are listed in a different order. (Perhaps when it was reprinted, they rearranged them to put them in the "right" order, based on the English sheet? Or perhaps it was reprinted so they could put them in the right order?) In any event, on the older sheet, the prints are listed (I am informed) in the order "FEGH" (top row, left to right) and "ACBD" (bottom row), using the nomenclature from the printed sheet in English listing the prints which accompanies the later sets.

Prints in both sets are however all thought to be from the original blocks done in 1928 by Shotaro Sato; at least one, the image of "Toeizan Temple and Shinobazu Pond, Ueno", definitely is. I compared the image of this print illustrated in:

	Edythe Polster, "Hiroshige",
		Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, 1983
with the matching print from one of the later sets, and it is from the same blocks. (This was the only large image I could find of one of these prints which was definitely from an original set.) I think it is therefore a reasonable assumption that the rest of the set is from the original blocks too. (I am attempting to verify this; I would love to find more originals and compare the rest of the set.)

The packaging of these sets apparently resembles the original sets; there is a large classical title-page printed from woodblocks, and the set also includes a printed sheet in English listing the prints, and giving the first line from the Shotaro Sato note quoted above. However, they did not have a set number, or any mention of the limited edition of 100.

(Thanks to the helpful people at the Elvehjem Museum of Art for providing a good, color image of the rare side seal, and to Mr. Fred McCord for the image of the Showa 21 publication sheet.)

Other Early Printings

There are sketchy reports of a number of other early printings; one by "Hakkei" in 1910/1911 (the dates given differ in different reports), and another by a French publisher, from 1925. Nothing else is known of these at this point, but I am attempting to find out more.

Later Reproductions From New Blocks

In addition, this series has since been reprinted (from new blocks) by other publishers, including one edition by Oedo Mokuhansha (which is easy to distinguish, as it is slightly larger than the originals, in addition to having different seals in the right hand margin).

Appendix: The Pinckard Catalog Entry

As this catalog is very rare, the entry for this series in it is reproduced here:
24. HIROSHIGE (opus posthumus)

Toto Yukimi Hakkei (Eight Snow Scenes in the Eastern Capital), a set of 8 oban prints in an especially designed portfolio (32 x 44 cm) published by Shotaro Sato, Kyoto, 1928, in a limited edition of 100, of which this is numbered 26.

According to a note by the publisher Mr Sato which accompanies this portfolio, Hiroshige finished and signed the original drawings for this set between 1842 and 1847. They were passed by the censor, but the blocks were never cut, possibly because of the publisher's bankruptcy. Instead the drawings made their way to Europe, perhaps through Dutch traders in Nagasaki, and eventually into the famous collection of M. Emile Javal of Paris, where Mr. Sato found them and was given permission to publish the first edition. The finest wood-engravers, colorists and printers at the time were engaged in the production, following the tradition procedures of Hiroshige's own publishers, in an effort to achieve a standard of woodblock printing which would be worthy of the originals. Indeed, these eight prints do represent a peak of technical skill which it is difficult to believe can ever be reached again. And despite the 80-year gap between conception and execution these can justly be described as first impressions, first states, of a set which embodies some of Hiroshige's finest work. The subjects are:

[list of prints]

Each print is individually matter in this portfolio. This set, in pristine conditions, comes from the Duel Collection in the library of the Fogg Museum, Boston. Rare.

Accompanying this text there are small black-and-white reproductions of prints A and H from the series.

(Thanks to John Rose and all at Auction Ukiyo-E for providing an image of this rare document.)

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