Gion Shrine in Snow (1834)

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About the Art

Wading through a thick blanket of snow, four women clutch at their kimono and hurry through the entrance to the shrine. They hide under their umbrellas to protect themselves from the flurries falling overhead.

This print is from Hiroshige’s series “Famous Views of Kyoto”; a seasonal portrayal of Kyoto’s naturally beautiful landscape. This scene is from the geiko district of Gion (geisha from Kyoto referred to themselves as geiko), pictured in deep winter.

Here, the geiko are passing through the ‘Torii gate’ at the shrine entrance.. Torii symbolically mark the transition from the mundane to the sacred.

Hiroshige’s intricate detailing and delicate shading give the image a charming quality. Look closely at the footprints in the snow, and how they resemble the shapes of their sandals (known as ‘geta’).

The shrine itself is known today as Yasaka, a sacred shinto shrine that includes many buildings, halls and stages. Ever since the year 869, a procession known as ‘Gion Matsuri’ went through Gion and up to the shrine. This has since become an annual festival and parade that happens every July.