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NIPPONIA No.35 December 15, 2005

Mount Fuji as Art
The Japanese have developed a strong bond with Mount Fuji, and the history of Japanese art shows it. Of all works depicting the mountain, the oldest in existence is a drawing on a paper sliding door from the Heian period. It dates from the 11th century.
Fuji appears very often in art because it has long been admired, even revered, as a symbol of beauty. Examples include old e-maki monogatari (stories illustrated on hand scrolls), Fuji-sankei mandalas venerating the mountain, ukiyoe woodblock prints, paintings in the Japanese style, and handcrafts.

Aka-Fuji (“Red Fuji”)
Japanese painting by Yokoyama Misao (1920-1973); property of the Gotoh Museum
(Photography: Meikyo Katsuo).
This painting is from the artist's Aka-Fuji (“Red Fuji”) series. The composition is bold, the mountain rendered in decisive strokes.
For many years, it has been considered lucky to see the mountain when it is colored red by the early morning sun. This is why a number of artists have depicted the “Red Fuji”—one famous example is a woodblock print by Hokusai (see T-shirt here).

Fuji-sankei mandala
Religious painting depicting a pilgrimage up Mount Fuji; property of the Third Yadawara Agricultural Association, Nara.
Centuries ago, Mount Fuji became a place for religious training and practice (shugen-do), blending reverence for mountains with Buddhist ideas. In more modern times, ordinary folk established religious associations called Fuji-ko in towns and villages, and climbed mountains together. In this mandala, pilgrims to Fuji's Sengen shrines are shown heading for the summit.

Kanagawa-oki Nami-ura
(“Fuji Behind the Waves Off Kanagawa”)
Multicolored woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).
A huge wave is about to drop water and spray on a flimsy boat. Unperturbed, Mount Fuji rises in the distance, framed by the waves. This masterpiece is perhaps the best known of Hokusai's ukiyoe print series Fugaku Sanju-roku Kei (“Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”), which depicts the mountain from different angles.
Japanese painting by Kobayashi Kokei (1883-1957);
property of the Yamatane Museum of Art.
Kokei was influential in the development of modern Japanese painting. This work is filled with the traditional beauty of Japanese painting, and its charm lies in the restrained lines and clear coloring.


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