Kameyama: Clear Weather after Snow, Station 47, from the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido (1833) by Otagawa Hiroshige

Clear Weather After Snow at Kameyama, a woodblock print part of artist Utagawa Hiroshige’s series Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (from Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin, 2023). This piece depicts a snow-covered Kameyama Castle (upper right corner) on a steep mountainside in Kameyama, Japan.

  • Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, also known as Hōeidō Tōkaidō, is a series of woodblock prints created in 1832 by Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). This art series documents Hiroshige’s trip on the Tōkaidō Road. The Tōkaidō is a 500-kilometer (310-mile) major Japanese highway extending from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyōto, two of the country’s major cities (map below). Although the roadways of the Tōkaidō have existed since at least 646 AD, the highway was rebuilt and upgraded in 1601 under the rule of shōgun (military dictator) Tokugawa Ieyasu. At that time, the Tōkaidō’s 53 stations were established. Later, additional post town stations were added to the Tōkaidō, so some historical records show the Tōkaidō with as many as 57 stations.
  • In 1832, Hiroshige joined a caravan traveling to the Imperial Court in Kyōto from Edo. Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō series has one print per recognized stop along the Tōkaidō Road. The collection was subsequently published by Hoeido and the Tsuru-ya Publishing House between 1833 and 1834.
  • Hiroshige completed Clear Weather After Snow at Kameyama (image above) in 1832 at the 47th station in the post town of Kameyama (map below). This print depicts a calm, snow-covered mountainside after a snowstorm. In the upper right corner, Kameyama Castle can be seen towards the top of the slope. The snowy town of Kameyama is visible directly below.

Map of the Tōkaidō Road, between the cities of Tokyo to Kyōto in Japan, with marked and labeled station names (from The Woodblock Prints of Utagawa Hiroshige, 2023). The station numbers increase from Tokyo (1) to Kyōto (55).

How is this related to climate?

  • Clear Weather After Snow at Kameyama illustrates a heavy snow event in Kameyama, Japan. Kameyama is a city in the Mie Prefecture, east of Kyōto (number 47 on the map above), and is characterized by subtropical climate. Winters in Kameyama have an average temperature of 4.3°C (40°F) and an average monthly precipitation of only 60 millimeters (2.4 inches). While the city does receive some snow, today, it is rare to see the amount of snow pictured in Clear Weather After Snow at Kameyama
  • Detailed meteorological records of Japan’s climate conditions did not exist until the late 19th century. Researchers rely on diaries and other archival documents to reconstruct weather patterns in the early to mid-1800s. Using these records, a study published by the International Journal of Climatology found that strong winter monsoons were common between the late 1820s and early 1840s. Researchers attribute this amplification of the East Asian winter monsoon to a polar frontal zone, where warm tropic air meets cold polar air, shifting south. During this period, a cold air mass surrounded Japan, dropping temperatures and increasing precipitation in the winter dry season.

References and additional resources