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Gifts for Hokusai Lovers

by TominagaChiaki
870 views 5 min read

From Ukiyo-e art dating back a few hundred years to Hello Kitty, Kutani ware continues to incorporate a wide range of elements in culture that is closely associated with daily life. 

Ukiyo-e is a style of art made widely popular in the Edo period. The term “Ukiyo” originally meant the struggles of the real world. However, with the vigorous common people’s nature, blossomed their own culture, the term became the opposite meaning with the same sound: an embracement and celebration of the beauties of daily life. Pieces can be created by handwriting or wood block prints, but mass production by wood block prints contributed to the background that permeated the common people. The division of labor between the design artist, the carver, and the printer was established, which made it possible for ukiyo-e to be widely used in the lives of ordinary people. 

Katsushika Hokusai (c. 1760 – 1849) is the most famous of many ukiyo-e artists and is known worldwide under the name Hokusai. With vivid color usage and bold composition, his works have been widely appreciated over the centuries. He is best known for the wood print series The Thirty Six View Of Mount Fuji which includes the internationally iconic prints often used for marchandise including Kutani ware. 

The production of Kutani ware shares a similar process with division of labor production (for an in-depth look, please also read *FROM START TO FINISH, THE PROCESS OF CREATING KUTANI WARE*).  Kutani ware uses a Japanese color paint called wa-enogu, which makes it possible to reproduce authentic and unique Japanese colors of ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e and tableware are works of art that permeate everyday life, so why not enjoy Hokusai’s work more closely with Kutani ware that combines the two? For Hokusai lovers, we would recommend some items from our store through an  introduction of Hokusai’s 5 popular paintings from his renowned Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji.

1. The Great Wave off Kanagawa

This is perhaps the most widely recognized pieces of Japanese art in the world. The image depicts a great wave threatening three boats off the coast in the Sagami Bay with a background of distant Mt. Fuji. This art on the cup is hand-drawn by craftsmen of Kutani ware. The image is so popular and symbolic in Japan that it has been decided The Great Wave Off Kanagawa will be adopted for the design printed on the back of 1000-yen bills from 2024.

2.  Fine Wind, Clear Morning (Also known as Red Fuji)

Another master piece along with The Great Wave off Kanagawa. It is said that the red color portrays the morning sun light which makes Mt. Fuji’s surface look brighter, shining under the clear sky. Given the probability of seeing Mt. Fuji is very low in this situation, it is believed that such imagery will avoid encountering disasters and wishes of a prosperous business will come true. In Feng Shui, it is said that it is auspicious to place red interiors and furniture from the east to the southeast.

3. Shunsu Ejiri(Ejiri in Suruga Province)

This portrays travelers on the Tokaido highway, blown in the strong wind. It captures the arresting sight of the combination of serene Mount Fuji which dimly depicted in the background and lively motion of wayfarer withstanding the wind, getting further afield. Hokusai’s Ukiyo-e, focused on lively people, convey the very life of Edo, so they still feel familiar to us today. It will be an interesting accent not only as tableware but also as an interior decorative item.

4. Koshu Kajikazawa

Kajikazawa is the point where the Fuefuki River and the Kamanashi River, which flow through the Kofu Basin meet, and from here it becomes the Fuji River, one of Japan’s three major rapids which flows down to Suruga Bay. This is highly regarded as a masterpiece among the indigo-colored works of Hokusai. It is also a figure that shows the skill of his geometrical composition, such as the fact that a fisherman who bends his body in a dogleg shape and draws a net and Mt. Fuji have similar figures.

5. Bishu Fujimigahara

It depicts Fujimihara, a suburb of Nagoya City in Aichi Prefecture, and was known as a scenic spot where Yukaku and samurai residences exist. It can be said that it is a work that always appears when explaining that Hokusai preferred to use geometric composition. Triangular Mount Fuji can be seen through a round vat. Also known as “Okeya no Fuji”, the depictions of people who make tubs are very detailed, and it is a masterpiece in this series.

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