Monday, March 14, 2011

For Japan

The relentlessly tragic, heartrending images coming out of battered Japan push everything else aside. See the end of this post for ways to help. 'The Great Wave' by Hokusai came to my mind as I watched those horrifying washes of water destroying airplanes, buildings, container ships, cars, homes and lives like it all was so much doll house furniture. Hokusai, one of Japan's great artists and one of the greatest artists - period - created his famous Wave image in the 1830's as part of the series '36 Views of Mt. Fuji.' Each one of the woodblock prints - part of a genre called 'Ukiyo-e' - is a little microcosm, a snapshot of people going about their business under the shadow of the majestic volcanic cone of Mt Fuji (located about 100 miles SW of Tokyo.) In each of the images, including the Great Wave, workers of bustle about, fishing, shrimping, planting rice, carrying heavy loads, cutting timber, shaping barrels, etc. Occasionally workers stop to rest, or a flutter of pretty women chatter as they gaze across the water at the mountain. Mt Fuji is always there, though sometimes you have to look for it - Hokusai is very clever with his compositions. Hokusai and Hiroshige, both great Ukiyo-e masters, show clearly Japan's fragile, eternal relationship with nature - with harsh weather, with steep-sided mountains, with a sea that is as rich and generous as it is dangerous. Their work is also a tribute to the people of Japan, who have for centuries toiled in concert with their land, giving each other a hand with large and small tasks, putting one foot in front of the next to get the job done. If you can help, please do.
For a complete look at Hokusai's series '36 Views of Mt. Fuji' (a few more than 36, because the series was so popular when it was published) go to:

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