Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849

Pictures of 100 poems by 100 poets, explained by a Wet Nurse
Visipix.com proudly presents Hokusais last great series as complete as possible
(89 pictures) in facsimile quality in the original Oban-size 15 x 10 inch.


Poem number 96
Nyudo Saki no Dajodaijin (Saionji Kintsune, Fujiwara no Kintsune) 1171-1244, prime minister then priest

The original poem:
Not the snow of flowers,
That the hurrying wild-wind drags
Round the garden court,
Is it that here, withering, falls:--
That in truth is I, myself.

A situational poem by HK:
How enchanting it is to see the ladies eagerly collecting what the wind is blowing around. Leaves, blossoms and sometimes snow. I am of old age. Would it not be great fun if the wind would suddenly throw me with all my white hair to those leaves and then those charming ladies would collect me too?.

Comment by HK:
The poet complains of his old age in a comparison of falling blossoms or leaves or snow. Hokusai did not see old age that way. He enjoyed that his artistic capabilities improved every year. In the picture one women is looking probably onto the poet and his poem - and is not at all pleased.

Poem number 97
Gonchunagon Sadaie (Fujiwara no Sadaie, Fujiwara no Teika) 1162-1241, one of the most famous poets in Japan

The original poem:
Like the salt sea-weed,
Burning in the evening calm,
On Matsuo's shore,
All my being is aglow,
Waiting one who does not come.

A situational poem by HK:
They are burning sea-weed to extract the salt from the sea. A lot of dark smoke escapes, while salt remains to be kept. My heart is on fire waiting for my love to make the smoke escape and get the salt out for her.

Comment by HK:
The poem is about a beloved person who is late or maybe will not show up at all. That is very sad. The fire in the heart would then be lost for nothing and would just hurt. The poetic comparison of the essence of love with salt extracted from the sea-weed - the kelp - by burning is new and it is touching. The burning kelp produces very thick smoke. Hokusai loved to show it in bright colors and with a spectacular shape reminding the ghost stories.

Poem number 98
Junii Ietaka (Jozammi Karyu, Fujiwara no Ietaka) 1158-1237 poet

The original poem:
Lo! at Nara's brook
Evening comes, and rustling winds
Stir the oak-trees' leaves--
Not a sign of summer left
But the sacred bathing there.

A situational poem by HK:
I, Hokusai go home now, while your families go to the shrines, the holy baths and get a prayer or two from those which are assembled on a stick. I have done what I came to do and I am happy.

Comment by HK:
We see a Shinto shrine. Shintoism is more a Japanese habit for everybody than a religion demanding something from believers. It can be combined on a personal basis with every other faith. It is late in the evening and late in the life of Hokusai, the old man who is just leaving. At the same time a family with a little boy riding on his fathers back are going in. The little boy carries a long stick with a lantern. He has great plans and already brings light into the world. He also represents Hokusai himself, who shows that as an artist he is riding on the back of the ancient masters. There are a lot of text messages including references to Hokusais publisher who is reminded that Hokusai wants to publish more and that the woodblock cutters should sharpen their tools and get ready for more works of art.

Poem number 99
Go-Toba In 1180-1239 Emperor Go-Toba, patron of arts

The original poem:
For some men I grieve;--
Some men are hateful to me;--
And this wretched world
To me, weighted down with care,
Is a place of misery.

A situational poem by HK:
When the actions of the warriors are ruling this world, it becomes a place of misery and is wretched until things will change again.

Comment by HK:
This is about an important point in Buddhism. This is the last picture in the anthology, for which Hokusai made a picture. The poem describes how men with their hate are wretching the world. Hokusai shows armed men storming through a gate of a palace. The Teachings of Buddha say that the world is full of grief and misery and we are reborn again and again into it until we are ready to dissolve our existence and reach Nirvana. The evil comes out of our selfish desires.

The books of Mose are the basis of Western civilisation. The first book, the Genesis starts with Adam and Eve and their sons Abel and Kain. The first death in the world is unnatural, Kain murders his brother Abel. The message of the myth is clear: The urge for evil is deeply entrenched in the souls of all human beings right from the beginning of times. We can and must oppose evil. The message of Jesus Christ is "There is nothing more powerful than non-violence and nothing that can counter it." The principle of non-violence has ended blood-vengeance between clans in large parts of the world. We call it the "civilised world". Parts of the Islamic world still have that problem. But the principle of non-violence might not completely and permanently erase the fundamental urge for evil.