Autumn Moon on the Tama River


Autumn Moon on the Tama River
Print   (Part of the set: Edo Kinko Hakkei (1920s))



Print is Public Domain; Photography is:   Creative Commons License


Publisher's notes from the original pamphlet:

This design gives the feeling of the vast, far-reaching Musashi plain, and it conveys the atmosphere of a cool autumn night under full moon.

This has always been considered as one of the most successful designs in the series, and few other works of Hiroshige reach the artistic heights he attained in this design. The composition is brought together by the willow-tree, which serves not only as a focal point for the design but also as the basis for several contrapuntal variations which occur in the design. Especially interesting features of the design are the beautifully shaded work in the woods on the other side of the river and the silhouetted mountains behind them.

The three poems appearing on the print are signed by Ikebanasai, Yototei Katanari and Yorojin Takinari - all of them noms-de-plume. Literal translation of the poems is nearly impossible, but Ikebanasai's poem remarks on the beautiful scenery and how clear the air is at Tamagawa ("impossible to breathe in a speck of dust"); Yototei Katanari's poem draws a rather obscure parallel of the moonlight with the roof-tiles of the Kokubun Temple ("which shatter the light and break it off"); and Yorojin Takinari compares the Tamagawa moonlight to the bleached cloth of Edo.

James A. Michener has commented on this design as follows: "There remains one print so mysterious in its evocation of nature that it has become a perpetual wonder, 'Autumn Moon on the Tama River'? comes from a set of eight superb prints commissioned by an amateur poet who may have had something to do with the delicacy with which the prints were designed. At first glance everything seems wrong with this famous work: the sky is crowded with several poems; the moon and the main tree collide awkwardly ; there is too much light for a night scene; the trees are too near the center of the print, and the drawing of the human figures is poor; while the color is bleak and the design haphazard. Yet curiously the result of such imperfections is one of the most limpid, poetic evocations of nature that any art has so far produced. What is the mystery of this contrary print that has bewitched so many persons? The secret lies, I think, in Hiroshige's absolute fidelity to nature. This is the way an unpretentious stretch of river ought to look. The moon ought to tangle awkwardly in the branches of a broken-toothed willow and not stand posed off to one side. If one could distill the essence of a white autumn night it would look like this, for the man who created this print had looked with a fresh, clean eye at nature, His apparent lack of art creates the apotheosis of art and he produces a strange, heavenly print."

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