The subject of this painting comes from a 10th-century narrative poem. It tells of a young nobleman's journey into the distant countryside, far from the cluttered environment of the capital (Kyoto). There he came upon a small stream, the banks of which were covered with blooming iris plants. A simple eight-plank bridge allowed travelers to admire the beauty of this natural site. While viewing the beautiful flowers the nobleman composed a poem:
I have a beloved wife,
Familiar as the skirt of a well-worn robe,
And so this distant journeying
Fills my heart with grief.
Earlier compositions depicting this scene included the wooden footbridge, supports, and flower stalks. Here the artist has allowed the imagination of the viewer to "fill in" the scene.