Main detail of “Under the Wave off Kanagawa”, from the Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji. Woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai , 1830-33, Japan. BritishMuseum
This is perhaps the single most famous of Hokusai’s woodblock prints - perhaps of all Japanese prints. It belongs to the series ‘Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji' (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). The graceful snow-clad mountain stands out unperturbed against the deep blue of the horizon. Yet it is reduced to a tiny hillock compared with the towering strength of the wave which threatens to engulf the struggling boats. Such clever, playful manipulation of the composition is a feature of many of Hokusai's works.
Tsuba, in the form of a crane with outstreched wings. Iron. 17th century, Japan. The RöhsskaMuseum, of Design, Fashion and Decorative Arts , Sweden.
A tsuba is a sword guard that forms the boundary between the blade and the grip. Its chief functions are to balance the sword, prevent the hand from reaching the blade and to protect the hand from an adversary’s cuts. Apart from the aperture for the blade there was often an opening in the Tsuba for a small knife – a kodzuka – and sometimes another hole for the kogai a Samurai would use to dress his hair. Early designs were simple and emphasis was primarily on function, but during the Edo period (1603–1868) there was a demand for luxury objects and the tsuba became increasingly more of an artistic embellishment and status symbol whose chief purpose was to communicate its owner’s social status.
Netsuke. Ivory and bone , early 20th century, Japan. The RöhsskaMuseum, of Design, Fashion and Decorative Arts, Sweden.
According to legend the islands of Japan rest on a giant fish, Namazu, whose all-too-lively quivering causes devastating earthquakes. The god Kadori Myojin is depicted on this netsuke as an ape riding on Namazu. In order to prevent catastrophe, he tries to keep the unruly fish calm with the aid of a magic gourd. Originally a simple piece of wood with two holes for fastening cords, the netsuke’s design and motif universe has developed more and more. Skillful sculptors and craftsmen developed the netsuke from merely being a useful article into an “objet d’art.
Temple of the Attainment of Happiness (Shōfukuji)
Artist/maker unknown, Japanese
Made in Nara Prefecture, Japan, Asia
Muromachi Period (1392-1573)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Details of entrance door of Nikko Toshogu shrine, Japan. Photography by Bernard Languiller on Flickr
(Source: Flickr / bernardlanguillier)
“Shiyui Bosatsu” Bodhisattva by Enku (Buddist monk, 1632-1695) Takayama Museum of History and Art, Gifu Pref., Japan
Samurai armor. About early 19th century, Japan