The 'Eight Views of Lake Biwa' (near Kyoto) were first established in the medieval period as Japanese equivalents of Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, long celebrated in Chinese literature and painting.
Following the enormous success of his first great landscape series 'Fifty-Three Stations along the Tōkaidō Highway' (Tōkaidō gojūsan-tsugi no uchi), Hiroshige (1797-1858) designed this series for the same publishers, Takenouchi Magohachi and Yamamoto Heikichi. The feeling of the ōmi series is quite different. Appropriate to the 'classical' subject, the designs have an austere grandeur, with human interest, such an important feature of Hiroshige's work, kept to a minimum.
In 1500 when the ōmi theme was first adopted by Japanese artists, Prince Konoe Masaie and his son chose a classical poem to match each scene. To complete his work, Hiroshige has included the poems. This one reads:
Hajime zo to
Mazu kiku Mii no
Iri-ai no kane
'So begin our
When first they hear
The evening bell of Mii Temple