Pines in the Snow
Strength and fortitude are the prime associations that come to mind in looking at these prints of snow-laden tree branches and bamboo. The pines symbolize long life, and bamboo connotes modesty and flexibility because of its ability to bend and not break in the wind. Both remain green throughout the winter, enduring the harshness of the weather and recalling the promise of spring to come. Snow-covered branches of camellia (tsubaki), which bloom during the winter and into early spring, convey the same promise; the plum tree blossoms in early spring, yet when shown with snow-covered branches, it too acts more as a herald for that season. Mandarin ducks, which evoke happiness in marriage because they mate for life, are also a standard winter motif.
Complementing these powerful seasonal images are new year prints announcing the arrival of another year. Cranes and pine together allude to longevity; when a crane is depicted with the rising sun, the grouping evokes wishes for happiness and long life. The substitution of the falcon for the crane alludes to "the first dream" of the new year, in which the falcon is one of three auspicious symbols that foretell a happy year.
Together these prints convey the sense of nature's power and the need to withstand its seasonal changes, while simultaneously offering the promise of renewal and rebirth that spring and the lunar new year brings.