Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji

There is something about clean lines and imagery cut back to the bone that has always drawn my eye and my mind.

Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji is probably the best known of the ukiyo-e (floating world) woodblock painting collections. Even so, there are only one or two pictures from the collection that most people recognize outside of Japan.

I could say all this with a certain level of academic detachment. I could not draw the line connecting my first sentence with my second.

This is the problem with writing.

How can I tell you how that moment felt when in the hospital again, for something that would take years to diagnose, I first saw one of the Thirty-Six Views?

Hospitals are such a strange combination of sterility and over-stimulation. It is impossible to be comfortable and equally impossible to find distractions. When I saw those prints, it truly felt as if I was seeing a world that floated separate from the one I occupied, that drew me above the place around me.

The “floating world” is a reference to the ephemeral pursuit of pleasure, a world of the here and now, the moment before us.

The moment I tied this together with my strong reaction to those pictures shaped and shifted the way I share my own stories and tales of the moment.

Perhaps because of this, my favourite of the Thirty-Six Views is not the ever-popular “Great Wave off Kanagawa” but instead “Eijiri in the Suruga Province”.

In this painting I see the story I want to tell.

So many small clean lines suggesting a world of untold possibility, of words carried out of my reach and into the world beyond.

Eijiri in the Suruga Province (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Eijiri in the Suruga Province (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This is a week about inspirations, both obvious and otherwise.


For the words stripped to their marrow inspired by this painting, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji

    • They also have so many little details, visual puns, and in-jokes that get lost because of the overwhelming focus on “The Great Wave”. It is a stunning piece of work, but the way it has been so broadly disseminated and stripped of context has removed a lot of its power. While “Thirty-Six Views” will always hold a special place in my heart, there are a lot of other beautiful ukiyo-e works that deserve a broader audience as well. I’m half-tempted to do an entry one day with nothing but my favourite woodblock prints.

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