In the print, Fuji is creatively mirrored by the shore of the lake below, in a tranquil scene which plays on the movement of light, cloud and water, offering clarity in the lake's reflection. This mirror-reflection provides an unusual play on fantasy and reality, with the bare-topped, cracked and jagged edges of the real Fuji standing in contrast with the more romantic, snow-capped depiction in the reflection.
Hokusai appears to suggest the two “faces” of Fuji; the ideal below, and the strong, physical aspect above. This depiction of Fuji was not just influential artistically, it served a purpose in Japanese society. The Edo period (1603 - 1868) was a relatively stable and peaceful moment in Japan’s history, when citizens enjoyed the luxuries of national travel through newly fortified “highway” networks, and would often purchase or collect depictions of such natural sites as visual souvenirs of their experience.
Katsushika Hokusai’s (1760 - 1849) Mount Fuji reflects in Lake Kawaguchi seen from the Misaka Pass in Kai Province (Kōshū Misaka suimen) is one of thirty-six famed views of Fuji produced by Hokusai for his eponymous book, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku Sanjūrokkei). Mount Fuji reflects in Lake Kawaguchi was first printed in 1830 in the Ukiyo-e tradition of woodblock printing. This involved a block-cutter carving Hokusai's original paper design into numerous wooden blocks for multiple colour printing.
Ukiyo-e, which literally translates as "Pictures of a Floating World", derives its name from the hedonistic and care-free (floating) lifestyles depicted in the early tradition of the medium. In these earliest examples of Ukiyo-e, prints often depicted courtesans, female beauties, erotic scenes, famous actors and other such cause célèbre. It has since been used to describe a whole host of scenes which are far less frivolous, more naturalistic, and therefore indicative of a technique and craft. As a mass produced and widely circulated medium, Ukiyo-e prints are an example of Japan's early consumer culture.