Utagawa Hiroshige, 1797–1858
Shōno—Driving Rain
From the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road, ca. 1833
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Provenance Mrs. Carl W. Jones P.13,709
Cat. no. 224

Many Hiroshige enthusiasts consider this composition to be among the best in the Tōkaidō series. Obscure way stations, Shōno and Kanbara (pictured nearby) lacked distinguishing landmarks and never figured in classical poetry or noted historical events. Perhaps for that reason, Hiroshige was less fettered by convention and could give freer rein to his creativity.

The irregular bands of fine diagonal lines represent sheets of rain pelting travelers along the roadway. Wind-whipped bamboo groves in the distance are rendered as two silhouettes, the farther one printed in a paler shade of gray to suggest the obscuring effect of heavy rain. The storm’s ferocity is evident also in the postures of the travelers. In showing the plight of these people, Hiroshige lets viewers vicariously experience the challenges of life on the road.