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Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Hakone is a very popular tourist destination because you have so many places to visit and the views of Mount Fuji in certain locations are extremely stunning. Throughout Hakone you have many museums and cultural wise the area is very rich in history. This certainly applies to Hakone Jinja (Hakone Shrine) whereby the Shinto faith blends naturally with nature. Also, the historical treasure museum based on the rich history of Hakone Jinja is certainly worth visiting because you have several amazing gems to view.

Hakone Jinja (Hakone Gongen) highlights all the natural beauty of Shinto and how nature and the gods work in unison in this religion. The backdrop of Lake Ashi, the mountain landscape and Mount Fuji breaking out from certain vantage points is absolutely stunning. Therefore, you can feel the strong connection between nature and the mystical charms of the Shinto faith.

The exact date when the foundation of Hakone Shrine was created remains debatable but clearly it dates back to the eighth century. This means that this amazing religious place was built during the Nara Period (710-794) which is fitting for such an important shrine. After all, while Kyoto may hog the limelight for being significant in Japanese culture the truth of the matter is that the Nara Period is where high culture began. This isn’t undermining the exquisite beauty and richness of Kyoto but clearly the majesty of Kyoto built on the firm foundations of the Nara Period.

Mystical holy men in the eighth century called yamabushi believed that gods dwelled in mountains that were extremely steep. Therefore, by dwelling in the same places it was hoped that ascetic practices fused with the dwelling gods would lead to magical powers and greater knowledge. Not surprisingly, Hakone Jinja with its ideal location and mysterious majesty was a place where the dwelling gods may be found according to the traditions of the yamabushi.

During the ninth century new forces were entering the Japanese psyche because Esoteric Buddhism from China was making an impact. This notably applies to Kukai (774-835) and Saicho (767-822) and once more the importance of the mountain landscape is abundantly obvious. Therefore, a fusion began to take place between the Shinto faith and its animistic nature alongside esoteric Buddhism in parts of Japan.

Mountain asceticism under Kukai in Wakayama was also powerful. Meanwhile,  in eastern Japan, and this notably applies to Hakone and Nikko, the same asceticism could be found despite the thought patterns being different. According to history Priest Mangan travelled extensively to spread the Buddhist faith and in 757 he reached Hakone and during his stay very powerful events occurred in his life. This applies to having many encounters with the yamabushi during his three years in Hakone and learning new ascetic ways. However, the real lasting legacy applies to a revelation that Priest Mangan had.

In this revelation which occurred during a dream the fusion of many ideas manifested itself and the outcome was very important. The revelation in his dream stated that “Your heart is pure and clean. Let’s deliver mankind with the grace of Shinto and Buddhist deities.” This revelation impacted greatly on him and he notified the emperor who in turn valued the meaning fully. Therefore, the emperor notified Priest Mangan to build a shrine at once in order to fulfill the revelation and hence this is the origin of this holy Shinto shrine.

Issues related to when the foundations first began or if Priest Mangan incorporated older Shinto shrines remains open. However, major changes did occur during the stay of Priest Mangan and from this date onwards many powerful individuals in Japanese history understood the power of this place.

If you visit the small treasure museum associated with the Hakone Jinja then important individuals in Japanese history like Emperor Hanayama (968-1008); Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199); Toyotomi Hideyoshi who died in 1598; Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616); and many others, will be highlighted. The treasure museum may only be small but you have many gems inside and the images are extremely beautiful.

Indeed, maybe the mysticism of Shintoism is at play because irrespective of language constraints and the size of the treasure museum; providing you stand back and take in what you visualize then the visit will stay with you. This notably applies to the five items which have been ranked with having national Important Cultural Property.

Hakone is an extremely beautiful part of Japan and takes only 90 minutes by a special express train from Shinjuku. Your options and the special Hakone transport pass from the Odakyu train company means that your stay is convenient. Also, you can utilize the many forms of transport which are available when you buy this special transport pass.

Hakone is situated in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and the entire region is a tourist paradise whereby stunning nature is in all directions and you have so many cultural treasures to view. This notably applies to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; volcanically active Owakudani geysers; Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands; Odawara Castle Donjon; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in HakoneHakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History; and you have a wealth of parks and special walks to go on.

In Hakone you have countless options and of course if you stay several days to a week then you won’t be disappointed because the countless amazing views will refresh you throughout your stay. The religious angle of the Shinto faith and cultural importance of the entire area fuses naturally with the stunning landscape.

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/qtours/hakone_course2.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/freepass/hakone_01.html

http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/index.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm

ALL IMAGES BELONG TO MODERN TOKYO TIMES

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Japan

 

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Japanese art: Images of tranquility and landscapes

Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Japanese art: Images of tranquility and landscapes

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Utagawa Kuniyoshi depicted many images and covered various different subject matters. Therefore, the art of this stylish ukiyo-e artist in this article provides only a glimpse into the real Kuniyoshi.

Kuniyoshi was born in 1797 and died in 1861 and throughout this period many developments erupted in Japan. This applies to traditional rule in the earlier part of his life to rapid changes from the middle of the 1850s and onwards until the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

Ando Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai are the most famous ukiyo-e artists internationally but Kuniyoshi was also a crème de la crème artist along with many others. Also, the broad spectrum of many ukiyo-e artists is truly amazing and this also applies to the art of Kuniyoshi. Therefore, the art work of this wonderful artist is complex and depends on various different circumstances.

This article focuses only on the tranquil nature of his art and elegant landscapes which appealed to many Japanese people. However, it would be wrong to believe that these lovely landscapes and scenes of serenity provide the real Kuniyoshi because this would be false.

Despite this, for people who know the art work of Kuniyoshi the opposite could be said because all too often this angle of his artwork is neglected. Yet clearly Kuniyoshi’s landscape images match that of any ukiyo-e artist irrespective of people’s own preferred artist.

The Edo Period was succumbing to outside forces during the lifetime of Kuniyoshi and this must have infringed heavily on this stylish artist. However, when one door closes another opens up and this certainly applied to the later stages of his life. Therefore, new techniques, different thinking, growing outside influences, evolution within the Japanese art world, and others factors, impacted greatly on Kuniyoshi.

Images in this article by Kuniyoshi are a reminder of a world which was mainly un-spoilt before the economic, social, and political revolution which took hold in Japan and culminated with the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

In an earlier article I commented that “Kuniyoshi and other famous ukiyo-e artists also take you back to a different Japan in all its confusion.  Therefore, Kuniyoshi designed prints which covered a vast spectrum and this applies to landscapes, women, kabuki, humor, nature, satire, shunga, cats, surimono and other areas.”  

“It is apparent that Hokusai (1760-1849) had much more political and sexual freedom and this notably applies to Hokusai’s shunga which is very powerful and erotic.  However, the Tenpo reforms of the early 1840s introduced measures which banned prints of erotic women and actors who belonged to the kabuki scene.  This meant that Kuniyoshi had to focus more on warriors and legends but his historical depictions were under close scrutiny. Therefore the popular satire of shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi and other prints led to an official reprimand and many prints were confiscated and destroyed.”

Kuniyoshi also opened up the past and this applies to the depiction of historical figures in Japanese history, brave samurai warriors, events in Japanese history, famous legends and other related areas which nurtured each new generation.  

Famous art pieces produced by Kuniyoshi include The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden All Told, At The Shore of the Sumida River, Mt. Fuji from Sumida and Pilgrims in the Waterfall. Of course you have many other famous collections and art pieces by Kuniyoshi and preferences will vary with each individual.

Pilgrims in the Waterfall is extremely beautiful because it shows and highlights important aspects of Japanese culture when it applies to religion and nature coming together.  This notably applies to Shintoism which is “the real heart of Japan” despite the influence of Buddhism within the Japanese psyche. Also, in this stunning art piece it is abundantly clear that space is very important and this applies to religion, Japanese gardens, meditation and other aspects of Japanese culture.

The serenity which can be felt by the Pilgrims in the Waterfall connects humanity, nature and religion together.  Therefore, Kuniyoshi is highlighting a powerful reality which belonged to his world.  

Kuniyoshi’s ukiyo-e is very varied and images in this article are limited to landscapes and internal tranquility in Japan.

http://www.kuniyoshiproject.com/  – Fantastic website and just click onto the section you are interested in.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Japan

 

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Hokusai and Hakone: Ukiyo-e and stunning scenery

Hokusai and Hakone: Ukiyo-e and stunning scenery

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Katsushika Hokusai was a sublime Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker and his art had many faces and styles.  However, when you think about the stunning nature of Hakone then the refined art of Hokusai springs to mind.

Alternatively, if you close your eyes and think about Hokusai’s shunga then you can enter seedy areas of Tokyo and images of Kabukicho come to mind.  Obviously both images may be an illusion but Hokusai’s art does have many sides and similar ukiyo-e artists went down the same path.

Hokusai clearly loved the view of Mount Fuji and visiting stunning places of natural beauty and both factors certainly apply to Hakone.  After all, Hakone rests within the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and in certain parts of Hakone you can witness sublime views of Mount Fuji.  Therefore, the entire region would inspire any exquisite artist to create picturesque scenes and clearly Hokusai fits the bill perfectly because he loved to express his passion for stunning views of nature.

The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and The Great Wave off Kanagawa are pure masterpieces in different ways.  Therefore, it is clear that Kanagawa is a potent region for spectacular scenery and a magnet for any artist who loves majestic views. Also, the size of the area means that views change quickly but remain to be a wonder to behold because of the natural beauty of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park.   

International tourists and Japanese tourists head to Hakone because of the richness of the area which provides unbelievable backdrops amidst the mountain range and abundance of nature.  Not only this, Hakone is blessed with a plethora of places to visit and you can appreciate the richness of Japanese culture by visiting one of the many museums which are dotted around the main tourist areas.

It is easy to imagine Hokusai, Ando Hiroshige and a host of other famous ukiyo-e artists wandering around the Hakone region during their brief time on this earth.  However, despite the briefness of life Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other artists, have clearly left a strong and powerful legacy. 

In this sense, these famous artists have fused aspects of their life within the beautiful mountain ranges and landscapes of Kanagawa.  Therefore, the immortality of Mount Fuji is enjoined by the “immortality of art” by artists like Hokusai and Hiroshige who have inspired so many people and provided glimpses into the real Japan.

On a windless night you can imagine artists in the sweltering heat of summer and in the stillness of winter you can feel the changing temperature and how their feelings will have infringed on their art. 

The spirit world exists to some people but for others you have nothing but the ending of all life and only memories of others and the legacy of a rare few last more than one single lifetime.  Either way, you can feel that Hokusai and Hiroshige, and other sublime ukiyo-e artists, are still alive because of the powerful images they left behind and while the first love often fades into dust the beauty of art remains.

Hakone is not just a tourist destination it is about “your Hakone” and this applies to escaping the mundaneness of life or stresses of life which often eats away at people.  Obviously, for some tourists they may prefer to follow the usual routes taken by many and this applies to the main tourist attractions and plethora of places to visit.

However, for others a walk or hiking is their preference and for others they will want to find solitude.  Alternatively, the hot springs attract many individuals and some people desire to refresh themselves by enjoying the soothing reality of hot springs and if lucky enough you can find a special hot spring surrounded by stunning nature.

Hokusai had desired more time on this earth in order to express the stunning reality of nature and his art was like the most delicious wine because he continued to mature throughout his entire life. 

The Great Wave off Kanagawa shows the potent power of nature and just like the frailty of life the chaotic reality of life infringed on Hokusai.  This applies to the devastating fire which destroyed Hokusai’s studio and much of his lifelong work was destroyed in a single moment of chaos.

Luckily for humanity not all was destroyed and obviously many art pieces will have been bought before this tragic fire but much was lost.  Therefore, the frailty and chaotic nature of life which had taken away people who were dear to Hokusai now ravaged is “very being” and this must have impacted on his thinking.

At the ripe old age of 87 Hokusai had completed the Ducks in a Stream and he yearned for more time on this earth. Yet only God is mortal or the imagination which believes in God or gods creates this mortality irrespective if it is a reality or an illusion. 

However, the symbolism of Mount Fuji and its impact on Japan means that a special spirit or energy exists within this mountain.  In a sense, Mount Fuji is immortal and Hokusai, Hiroshige, and others, entered the immortality of the mind of others by their stunning art work.

Therefore, while each generation will turn to dust certain factors will remain because all cultures hand something down and preserve the best of humanity.  This certainly applies to Hokusai who not only left a rich legacy for the Japanese people but he left a rich legacy for the best of international humanity.

Hokusai showed glimpses of the beauty of this world through aspects of his work while shunga focused on the lustiness of humanity or the reality of sexuality, depending on your thinking.

On his deathbed Hokusai uttered “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years…Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

In reality it would matter not, another five years or ten years because Hokusai had already left a rich legacy and the chaotic nature of life could not guarantee a fruitful extra five or ten years.  Therefore, the last moments of Hokusai’s life was tinged with the hope of more time but sooner or later God is going to knock on your door and what was, is no longer.

In 1849 Hokusai died but Nichiren Buddhism, Mount Fuji and the stunning and mystical mountains of Japan had served him well.  All these factors, and others, made him what he became and after death his candle did not burn out because the brightness he left still flickers strongly and will continue to do so.

This life is not mortal but images like The Great Wave off Kanagawa and other work by Hokusai means that his art is immortal. 

Language restricts humanity because of the plethora of languages but art at its best can defeat this because images can be viewed irrespective of the constraints of language. 

Therefore, a visit to Hakone is a real treat for people who reside in Tokyo or for tourists visiting Tokyo.  After all, Hakone only takes 90 minutes from Shinjuku by the Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar.” 

In a different article about Hakone I state that “The “Romancecar” is a great way to travel because you can relax in comfort and you have a drinks and food service which caters for your needs.  Also, the Hakone Free-pass is a must because it provides great value and you can use it for 7 types of different transport.” 

“This applies to the Hakone Ropeway, Hakone Tozan Line, and other forms of transport.  Therefore, you can hop on and off different forms of transport and the scenic views from the Hakone Ropeway and Hakone Tozan Line is stunning; the different forms-of-transport also adds to your holiday because the quaint train journey is pleasurable by itself.”

“Hakone is home to famous spas and is located in a large historical zone and when you include this to the stunning nature of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and cultural attractions on offer; then it is clear to see why Hakone is so popular.”

The art legacy of people like Hokusai is another major attraction and while Hokusai’s time on this earth was between 1760 and 1849; you can feel close to him in places like Hakone because of the connection of his artwork with the stunning reality of Hakone.

If you want to fuse a sublime holiday based on art, history, and stunning scenery then Hakone is the place to visit. The main museums apply to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in Hakone; Hakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; and Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History.

Other places to visit include the volcanically active Owakudani geysers, Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, Hakone-jinja shrine and Treasure Museum, Odawara Castle Donjon, and many stunning parks and gardens can be found throughout Hakone.

The Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and surrounding area is a tourist paradise and given the comfort provided by the Odakyu train company which offers a fantastic service via the special Hakone pass; then you can enjoy quality time and make the most of what Hakone provides and at the same time you can travel easily because of services provided by the Odakyu train company.

Overall, Hakone is a magical place and Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other famous ukiyo-e artists, may have turned to dust a long time ago but their energy and passion is alive by the legacy of their respective artwork. 

In Hakone and the surrounding region you can get close to their world because of the connection with the images that they left behind. 

http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/hokusai/launch.htm   (Hokusai)

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/qtours/hakone_course2.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/freepass/hakone_01.html  

http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/index.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html  

http://moderntokyotimes.com  please visit

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Japan

 

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi: Tranquil art and natural beauty! Part One

Utagawa Kuniyoshi: Tranquil art and natural beauty!  Part One

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi is amongst the crème de la crème of ukiyo-e because his art work was truly amazing and so powerful.  Kuniyoshi, just like other famous Japanese artists like Ando Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai, was very diverse and the window of the new Japan was on its way.

This article is based on three tranquil art pieces by Kuniyoshi. However, just like life these three glimpses into Kuniyoshi and his style are misleading. Nevertheless, given the amount of art that Kuniyoshi produced then a more tranquil based article suits the introduction for lay people who only know snippets about this talented artist.

Also, human nature is complex and the outside persona and internal reality is often very different.  Therefore, by providing a glimpse into the natural aspect of Kuniyoshi’s art I hope to relate this with the calm before the storm.

After all, Kuniyoshi was born in 1798 and died in 1861 and he belonged to a world of continuity during the Edo Period but when his life was nearing the end, the Edo Period was also succumbing to outside forces and internal power issues.

By showing only three art pieces of Kuniyoshi I hope to transform these three images into a different meaning.  This applies to the safety of the past irrespective if our recollections of our early years are often clouded by nostalgia and a yearning of the dead souls which have become mere memories.

Kuniyoshi and other famous ukiyo-e artists also take you back to a different Japan in all its confusion.  Therefore, Kuniyoshi designed prints which covered a vast spectrum and this applies to landscapes, women, kabuki, humor, nature, satire, shunga, cats, surimono and other areas.  

His legacy and style especially applies to depicting historical figures, warriors, events in history and legends which helped to inspire and open-up the viewer to the past.

It is apparent that Hokusai (1760-1849) had much more political and sexual freedom and this notably applies to Hokusai’s shunga which is very powerful and erotic.  However, the Tenpo reforms of the early 1840s introduced measures which banned prints of erotic women and actors who belonged to the kabuki scene.  This meant that Kuniyoshi had to focus more on warriors and legends but his historical depictions were under close scrutiny. Therefore the popular satire of shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi and other prints led to an official reprimand and many prints were confiscated and destroyed.

Kuniyoshi was influenced to some extent by Katsukawa Shuntei (1770-1820) and this applies to warrior prints that he produced and not to other areas of his artwork. However, the early period for Kuniyoshi was not easy and it wasn’t until 1827 that he made a major breakthrough.  This applies to The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden All Told.

The three art pieces in this article depict a natural and cultural aspect of Japan.  At The Shore of the Sumida River shows the power of nature and the reality of everyday life.  The only individual face that you can see is in a natural state and he looks worn out and battling against the elements and fatigue. 

However, the Mt. Fuji from Sumida shows a breathtaking landscape and two people are in awe of the stunning beauty and another individual is walking blissfully alone.  The image also shows you a child who is enjoying life with his mother and playing. Also, unlike the older individuals the child is in a dream world because of natural joy and the energy of childhood can be seen.

The serenity of the image and exquisite color scheme alongside the backdrop of Mount Fuji is a beautiful illustration of Kuniyoshi’s art. 

Pilgrims in the Waterfall depicts the unity of faith and nature and while Buddhism was powerful in this period in Japan the indigenous faith of Shinto is “the real faith of Japan.” This applies to the power of ancestors, the spirit world, nature and humanity being in co-existence and other aspects that run through the veins of Japan’s history.

It would not really matter if the image was a pilgrimage to Buddhism or Shintoism because the natural image of nature and the power of the waterfall could only connect you with Shintoism.  Therefore, despite the power of Buddhism in this period in Japan the old world survived and this applies to the world of Shintoism and the mystery of gods within nature.

These three images depict a natural Japan and show a world which was far from the political intrigues of the day.  The serenity which can be felt by the Pilgrims in the Waterfall is a stunning image which connects humanity with nature but in a natural and simplistic way.  Therefore, no religious building is needed and instead the pilgrimage at its heart is interwoven with the power of nature. 

Similarly, Mt. Fuji from Sumida shows the stunning beauty of Japan and the scene highlights natural beauty and everyday life and thought patterns.  Older individuals are in awe while the child is blissfully happy irrespective of the stunning background.

Therefore, the three images of Kuniyoshi in this article are focused on only one side of his art work but Kuniyoshi was very diverse and during the reforms of the early 1840s he did not remain placid.

 

http://www.kuniyoshiproject.com/  – Fantastic website and just click onto the section you are interested in.

http://moderntokyotimes.com  please visit

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Japan

 

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Katsushika Hokusai and erotic art: The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (Part 2 of Hokusai)

Katsushika Hokusai and erotic art: The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (Part 2 of Hokusai)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

Katsushika Hokusai was born in 1760 and died in 1849 and this most splendid of artists created many different art forms and the imagery from the two most striking pieces of his art could not be more different.

Hokusai was a Nichiren Buddhist and just like Nichiren himself; he had a complex nature and he is not easy to pin down or label.  It is true to say that he was always consistent when applied to producing art and even when he was 87 years of age he completed the Ducks in a Stream.

Even on his deathbed it is clear that Hokusai’s love of life and art still shone bright within his soul and heart. 

When Hokusai was close to death he stated “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years…Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

Hokusai had many talents and he learnt the trade from a very early age.  His talents apply to being a sublime Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and a printmaker. 

His Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and love of Nichiren Buddhism shows an individual who was at one with nature and the mysteries of life.  For Hokusai the mountains were a place of mystery and the Shinto gods and the majesty of nature surrounding Mount Fuji; meant that he could use the stunning scenery and fuse this with ideas from a hidden world.

The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji include the magnificent and powerful masterpiece called The Great Wave off Kanagawa and other potent images which showed the landscape to be truly magical include Fuji in Clear Weather.

If this artwork is viewed in isolation then “the real” Hokusai is missing because while Hokusai connected with nature in all its majesty he also had a different side.  This applies to Hokusai’s erotic art and his images were extremely strong from a mainstream European artist point of view in this period.

This in itself shows you the constraints and freedoms “within many nations in Europe” when it came to mainstream art in this period, when applied to erotica.  However, in Japan erotic images and the view of sexuality was very different and the same applies to homosexuality in this period because Japan was much more liberal when it came to sexuality and many a Edo leader had male concubines.

However, The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is not only erotica it is a powerful image of female sexuality and joy. This joy and sexuality, however, is by a fully grown octopus and a very young octopus.

The erotic woodcut even shocks today and the imagery is very potent and full of erotica alongside mystery and a world unknown.  This form of art belongs to the ukiyo-e genre and shunga was a powerful force in erotica in Japan during the Edo period because it was a good way to earn money for an aspiring artist. 

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is the most striking image from Kinoe no Komatsu which was a collection of shunga and it was published in three volumes from the year 1814.

The image shows a lady who was deemed to be a shell diver (ama) with her legs wide apart while the fully grown octopus performs cunnilingus.  She is fully naked and her breasts and hairy pussy are clearly visible and her body is clearly welcoming both the fully grown octopus and the small and younger octopus.

The eyes of the fully grown octopus are really striking because while performing cunnilingus on the lady it is clear that the eyes are fully focused on her face and pleasure and satisfaction belong to both.

It is suggested that the small octopus may be the son and if so then this makes the sexual experience even more erotic to some or alternatively “on the edge” for others.  Either way, only Hokusai really knows the role of the small octopus but it is clear that the lady is enjoying the power of the fully grown octopus and the magical touch of the younger octopus which is fondling her nipple and mouth.

Her face depicts complete sexual bliss and in the image it appears that nature and humans are one and the same.  Yes, visually different; however, enjoying the sexual experience together.

The image which is graphic is also based on consent, pleasure, joy, and bliss.

The interpretation of what is really happening is very diverse and art specialists and critics have various opinions.

Also, given the imagery of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife then for some people it is a masterpiece but for others it is depravity and of course you will have a multitude of opinions about this image with was produced in the early nineteenth century by Hokusai.

The scholar Danielle Talerico is trying to put this image within the history of the Edo period because the Princess Tamatori story was very popular in the Edo period.  However, this appears to be over simplistic because in the Tamatori story the outcome is very different and the sea creatures are chasing Tamatori and in the end she dies from her wound.

Hokusai does mention above the image in his work that the octopus will take the lady to Ryujin’s undersea palace but Hokusai could have just adapted his image and played around with this story.  Or, the Ryujin’s undersea world may be a world which was seen differently by Hokusai.

Unlike the negative outcome of Princess Tamatori it is clear that sexual pleasure and mutual gratification is taking place and unless this is part of the original story then the reasons may never be known.

After all, in art you have many images of Jesus but not all images have the same meaning and for some contemporary artists they may be mocking Jesus or seeing Jesus in their own eyes.  It is only natural that artists will borrow from their culture but it does not mean that the images of their art have the same meaning.

Artists in Japan before Hokusai and after Hokusai have shown sexual scenes between females and cephalopods and within the lifetime of Hokusai another artist, Yanagawa Shigenobu, also created an image whereby a lady is being seduced and pleasured by an octopus.

Therefore, the real reason behind The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife can’t be answered with certainty.

The image may have just been a fantasy or showing the learning process of sexual pleasure whereby the small octopus is just watching the master.  Or it could have been Hokusai’s love of nature whereby he fuses love within the reality of shunga but desires to say that humanity and nature are one.

Of course this can easily be rejected but without a clear answer from Hokusai then the mystery will remain.

What is clear is that The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (Other artists have given it a different name) is an image which is very potent and even today this image still shocks.

I personally think it is a masterpiece and that it will always remain a mystery.

In truth, this also adds to the striking image on display and the scene which the viewer can see because you have no clear answer but the power of the image is awesome.

http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/hokusai/launch.htm  (Hokusai)

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm (Hokusai)

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/05/31/katsushika-hokusai-japanese-artist-with-a-rich-legacy-part-one/

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 

 
 
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Posted by on June 3, 2011 in Japan

 

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