Japanese wave arts “Oceans of Wisdom” by Katsushika Hokusai

(Last Updated On: 31/10/2018)

The Japanese wave arts of “Oceans of Wisdom “(One Thousand Images of the Sea)

After the finish of “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji“(富嶽三十六景), the star ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai started the new series of the Japanese wave arts “One Thousand Images of the Sea”(Oceans of Wisdom,千絵の海) in 1833. 




He had mainly depicted the combination of the view with Mt.Fuji, the rivers, and the rakes in “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”. 


Learn about Katsushika Hokusai’s biography and fact


The scenes of fishing men


But the theme of “Oceans of Wisdom” focused on the people who lived around the sea and the rivers, and went fishing.


He used the sketches which he drew for “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”, other landscape printings, and the topographies as the reference. 


Though the series contains ten pictures, Tokyo National Museum holds other incomplete artwork. The half of the prints show the view of the sea and others the rivers. You can hardly see the whole prints all at once. Because the number of the now-existing works are clearly less than “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”.


“Oceans of Wisdom” is a rare series less than 10 in the world compared with the number of “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” being 50 or more, or 100 or more.


The history, famous artists, price at the time of ukiyo-e woodblock printing


The gallerly





Longline fishing at Miyato River

The woodblock printing depicts the scenery around Ryogoku, Edo City. The long fishing line bundled in the net has many fishing hooks. On the other shore, we can see many buildings that keep the boats owned by the shogunate.


Shimousa Nobuto

This picture shows the state of the quiet inland sea in Chiba Prefecture. The people on the beach are clamoring. Hokusai painted the same place as ‘Bay of Noboto’ in “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji“.


Soshu Uraga

It is the sea in the vicinity of Uraga City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Because this has been also the inland sea of Tokyo Bay, Hokusai painted a quiet water surface without wave. In the middle of the screen, a man is fishing up a fish. The man’s body and fishing line express the momentary shot.


Soshu Tonegawa River

The Tonegawa River flows from the northwest to the southeast of the Kanto region. In the Edo Period it was an important waterway that carries supplies from the sea into the Edo City. Hokusai painted a fisherman who captured river fish in the river.


Fishing at Kinugawa River

They fishes in the Kinugawa River running through Tochigi Prefecture. The gradation of the waves going down to overlap is impressive. The movement of those who captivate fish is contrasting with the quietness of the people who looks at them and walks with horses far away.


Hunting a Whale at Goto Islands

The Japanese whaling has been often in a state of international argument and the prints depicts the scene. Hokusai painted this picture from a distant viewpoint the situation of intense whaling.


Koshu Fishing with the Swinging Torches

It is a state of fishing which was done in present Yamanashi Prefecture. The fishermen waved the torches at night and captured the fish drawn by the lights. We can also see the shinning stars in the night sky.


Floating Artificial Hooks

This picture depicts those who fish with the artificial bait. Hokusai used many geometric patterns such as the parallel lines of haze and riverbanks, the round shapes of the braided hat, and the triangles of the net.


Wating Net Trap

The people takes fish falling with a lot of water from the steps. They seem to fish separately because they use their tools such as the baskets, nets and sieve. Hokusai expressed the splashing and winding water with the subtle colors and lines.


Soshu Choshi

It’s like a woodblock printing that closing up ‘The Great Wave Off Kanagawa‘. Hokusai drew boldly the waves protruding from the screen. It’s a powerful picture that would inhale those who see it.


Prussian blue

In the same as his just before woodblock series, Hokusai used a rare pigment at that time for “One Thousand Images of the Sea”. Prussian blue was imported into Japan around 1830. So the color was really cutting edge for ukiyo-e artists. The publisher got the pigment for him to express deep blue of the ocean and the sky.


Especially, we are captivated the bright Prussian blue in the wave of Soshu Choshi. The harshness and deepness have something in common with ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’. Utagawa Hiroshige(歌川広重) who had excellent skill in landscape picture also could handle the precious color in his artworks.


See also “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”






Back to the page of Katsushika Hokusai


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