Mount Utsu is a meisho or a famous place that is well known for its mythology and paths of overgrown ivy and maples trees. Mount Utsu is a meisho that is often used metaphorically to contrast a kind of reality within the dream world. Utsu is a play on the word utsutsu which’s literal meaning is reality and has connotations of one’s awakening moments and also a mountain of sadness.

Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige. Depiction from The Fifty Three Stations of the Tōkaidō

It appears in stories and operates in both the prose and poetry. It’s appeared in famous works such as The Ise Stories and The Fifty Three Stations of the Tōkaidō (Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi). Mount Utsu has also been depicted in many paintings as well.

Tawaraya Sotatsu (Japanese, died ca. 1640) “Mount Utsu” (Utsu no yama), from The Tales of Ise (Ise monogatari) , ca. 1634 Japan, Edo period (1615–1868) Album leaf, mounted as hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on paper. Source 

It appears in the episode of The Ise Stories (Ise Monogatari) which is a narrative that recounts the travels of an unnamed protagonist.

Mount Utsu in  the Suruga Province is mentioned in Chapter 9 of the Ise Stories and this chapter is a tale of the protagonists’ exile to eastern Japan. This is the part in the story where the unnamed protagonist meets a wandering monk at Mount Utsu which signifies the main protagonists awakening of reality. He then proceeds to ask the monk to present his lover with a poem of longing, despair and sadness.

Suruga naru
Utsu no yamabe no
Utsutsu ni mo
Yume ni mo hito ni
Awanu narikeri.

In the poem, he says he can no longer see his love, not even in his dreams, which symbolizes that she hasn’t been thinking of him. (In ancient Japanese tradition, it is believed that if one sees their lover in a dream it means they are thinking about them.)

Artist: Fukae Roshū. Drawn in the Edo Period. This is a depiction of Chapter 9 of The Ise Stories but as a fan mounted as a hanging scroll.

In this scene, it shows the courtier and his attendant at the bottom of Mount Utsu where the protagonists of these stories usually meet religious ascetics.

Utsu Dake Map

Mount Utsu is located in the Hokkaido Prefecture.


Works Cited

Traganou, Jilly. The Tōkaidō Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004.

“Scene from the Ise Stories: “Mount Utsu” (Utsu no yama).” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. Accessed March 07, 2016.{5bc821dc-2782-4897-854f-ebbdc0f09577}.


Image Sources


Contributor: Stephanie Mar

(Edited by Elle Marsh)