Rainstorm Beneath the Summit

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Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji
(富嶽三十六景, Fugaku Sanjurokkei)

Woodblock print title
Rainstorm Beneath the Summit 
(山下白雨, Sanka Hakuu)

Katsushika Hokusai

Rainstorm Beneath the Summit is one of the most well-renowned pieces included in the series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (冨嶽三十六景, Fugaku Sanjurokkei), a compilation of 46 woodblock prints and Katsushika Hokusai’s lifetime masterwork. The ukiyo-e is listed as one of the top three works in the series alongside Under the Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖浪裏, Kanagawa Oki Nami Ura) and South Wind, Clear Sky (凱風快晴, Gaifu Kaisei).

The composition appears a bit similar to that of South Wind, Clear Sky doesn’t it?

Red Fuji

South Wind, Clear Sky

Black Fuji

Rainstorm Beneath the Summit

While South Wind, Clear Sky is nicknamed the Red Fuji, Rainstorm Beneath the Summit is otherwise called the Black Fuji, and some say that these two could be considered as a pair.
Despite the similarity in the compositions of how the mountain is symbolically represented, the Black Fuji gives off a strikingly different impression than the Red Fuji.
How are they in contrast with each other? Let’s dive deeper to find out. 

What does the title mean?

Sanka (山下) is an expression to describe the area below or at the foot of a mountain.
Hakuu (白雨) refers to evening rain showers or sudden showers. 

Where is this located?

Almost all of the 46 titles in the Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji include names of the locations; however, two pieces––South Wind, Clear Sky and Rainstorm Beneath the Summit––do not indicate the whereabouts of the scenes, so it is difficult to determine its exact area. It remains uncertain as to where the view was observed from.

The key elements

  • Why isn’t the rain illustrated?
  • Thunderbolts and cumulus clouds
  • Hokusai’s use of perspective and imagination

1. Why isn’t the rain illustrated?

Why didn’t Hokusai illustrate the actual rainfall even though the title implies the presence of showers?When you look at this scene, you may wonder why the foothills of Mount Fuji are pitch black. This is to suggest that the weather is undesirable.

Standing at an elevation of 3,776 meters, Mount Fuji is the highest peak in Japan.
The summit looms high above the rain clouds, so it will never see wet weather even if it’s raining down below.
So the rainfall is not explicitly illustrated, but viewers can understand that the peak of the mountain remains unchanged while the areas covered in clouds are darkened.
It’s easy to imagine that there is a shower occurring at the base even though the actual droplets are not drawn in the picture.  

2. Thunderbolts and cumulus clouds

In the sky are cumulus clouds rising in large fluffs, and black rain clouds are covering Mount Fuji halfway up its hills. The sharp cracks running down the side of the image represent bolts of lightning. 

Then, when you take your eyes to the top of the mountain, the sky is clear and sunny without a cloud in sight. 

What this scene portrays is the almighty splendor of nature through Mount Fuji. Hokusai creates a wonderful juxtaposition between the summit, which remains unchanged no matter what the weather conditions may be, and the mountain foot, which presents itself with multiple facets depending on the weather. 

3. Hokusai’s use of perspective and imagination

Although there were no airplanes in the days of Hokusai, the composition of this print suggests that the ukiyo-e master utilized an aerial perspective. It is evident that Hokusai had an extremely creative imagination and mastery to depict the dramatic scenery. 

Another point to highlight is the coexistence of stillness and motion as represented by the immovable Mount Fuji and flashes of lightning.
The work combines contrasting elements of earth and heaven, heavy rain and clear skies, and stillness and motion in a single image. The resulting landscape also creates a complementary contrast with South Wind, Clear Sky, revealing Hokusai's imaginative ingenuity.

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Woodblock Prints


Rainstorm Beneath the Summit

山下白雨, Sanka Hakuu