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Yamabe no Akahito 山部の赤人 / Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki 百人一首 宇波がゑとき (One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, Explained by the Nurse)

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1906,1220,0.583

  • Title (object)

    • Yamabe no Akahito 山部の赤人

    Title (series)

    • Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki 百人一首 宇波がゑとき (One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, Explained by the Nurse)
  • Description

    Colour woodblock oban print. Poem by Yamabe no Akahito. Travellers climbing steep gradient on coastal path; one person carried in sedan chair; another man turning back to those following; Mt Fuji coated with snow across Suruga Bay. With poem by Yamabe no Akahito. Trimmed slightly on all sides. Inscribed, signed and sealed.

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  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1830s(late)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 24.7 centimetres
    • Width: 36.6 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        Japanese
      • Inscription Position

        image, top right in cartouche
      • Inscription Content

        山部の赤人
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Yamabe no Akahito
      • Inscription Type

        signature
      • Inscription Position

        image, left
      • Inscription Language

        Japanese
      • Inscription Content

        前北斎為一筆
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Saki no Hokusai Iitsu hitsu
      • Inscription Translation

        From the brush of Iitsu, the former Hokusai
      • Inscription Type

        seal
      • Inscription Position

        image, left
      • Inscription Comment

        Red seal of Manji.
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        image, top right in cartouche
      • Inscription Language

        Japanese
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Tago no ura ni / Uchi-idete / mireba / Shiro-tahe / no / Fuji / no / taka-ne ni / Yuki ha / furi/tsutsu
      • Inscription Translation

        As I set out on / The beach of Tago, and look, / I see the snow constantly falling / On the high peak of Fuji, / White as mulberry cloth.
      • Inscription Comment

        Poem.
      • Inscription Type

        seal
      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom left
      • Inscription Language

        Japanese
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Kiwame
      • Inscription Comment

        Red censorship seal.
      • Inscription Type

        seal
      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom left
      • Inscription Comment

        Red seal of the publisher, Eijudo.
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        image, top right in cartouche
      • Inscription Language

        Japanese
      • Inscription Content

        百人一首 宇波がゑとき
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki
      • Inscription Translation

        One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, Explained by the Nurse
  • Curator's comments

    Clark 2001

    Travellers are climbing a steep gradient on a coastal path, one fortunate person carried in a sedan chair ('kago'). Another man further up the slope seems to turn back to communicate to those following (thereby looking out at us) - perhaps he is excited at having caught a glimpse of Mt Fuji, generously coated with snow, across Suruga Bay. This would chime with the sentiments expressed in the verse below, which is by Yamabe no Akahito (active 724-36), revered together with Kakinomoto no Hitomaro as one of the two 'saints of poetry' ('kasei') and esteemed in particular for his nature poetry. Here is a recent translation by Joshua Mostow:

    As I set out on 'Tago no ura ni'
    The beach of Tago, and look, 'Uchi-idete mireba'
    I see the snow constantly falling 'Shiro-tahe no'
    On the high peak of Fuji, 'Fuji no taka-ne ni'
    White as mulberry cloth. 'Yuki ha furitsutsu.'

    (Joshua S. Mostow, 'Pictures of the Heart: The "Hyakunin Isshu" in Word and Image', Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1996, p. 152.)

    Though the poem was originally included in the 8th-century 'Man'yoshu' ('Ten Thousand Leaves') anthology, the version quoted on Hokusai's print is that included in the much later 'Hyakunin isshu' ('One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets') anthology compiled by Fujiwara no Teika in the 1230s. This was, after all, the anthology of one hundred canonical poems that Hokusai was illustrating in his series, as if 'explained by the nurse' (i.e. as visualized by a simple country woman) (The explanation given in Peter Morse, 'Hokusai: One Hundred Poets', New York, George Braziller, 1989, pp. 7-8).

    The interpretation of laconic but richly associative 31-syllable classical poems ('waka') has been, quite literally, a never-ending process for persons of cultivation and Hokusai was evidently keen to come up with a highly individual, occasionally idiosyncratic, depiction of each famous verse. The sometimes tenuous connection between classical poem and Hokusai picture has been cited as the reason for the abandonment of the series after only twenty-seven designs were published. However, if the hypothetical dating suggested by Roger Keyes of spring 1835 to summer 1836 is accepted, the cause may simply have been general economic depression ('Ibid.', p. 16).

    The wording of the poem in its original 'Man'yoshu' form was substantially different, thereby giving rise to a quite dissimilar translation in English and providing a fertile subject for commentators over the centuries (Mostow, 'ibid.', p. 55). An obvious point of basic interest, in the context of Hokusai's picture, is the location of Tago no ura (variously translated as a beach, coast or cove), but it will probably always be impossible to pinpoint this, given the apparently shifting position of this place-name in history, at various spots around the top of Suruga Bay, from present-day Shimazu in the west to south of Numazu in the east. The clarity and balance of the composition and cheerful colouring - the gradated band of red behind the mountain (suggesting a winter dawn?) and the two gradated bands of Berlin blue among the waves - create one of the most attractive designs within the series. The impression in The British Museum has been trimmed slightly on all sides (Compare the impression with margins in the collection of the Japan 'Ukiyoe' Museum, Matsumoto. 'Meihin soroimono ukiyo-e, vol. 9: Hokusai II', Tokyo, Gyosei, 1992, no. 4 (commentary by Nagata Seiji)).

    Literature:
    Binyon, Laurence. 'A Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Woodcuts in the British Museum'. London, British Museum, 1916, [Hokusai] no. 189.

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Binyon 1916 189 bibliographic details
    • Clark 2001 42 bibliographic details
    • Keyes & Morse 2015 654 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2001, 11 May-29 Jul, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Associated titles

    • Associated Title: Hyakunin isshu (One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets) (anthology compiled by Fujiwara no Teika in the 1230s)
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1906

  • Department

    Asia

  • Registration number

    1906,1220,0.583

  • Additional IDs

    • B189
Colour woodblock oban print. Travellers climbing steep gradient on coastal path; one person carried in sedan chair; another man turning back to those following; Mt Fuji coated with snow across Suruga Bay. With poem by Yamabe no Akahito. Trimmed slightly on all sides. Nishiki-e on paper. Inscribed, signed and sealed.

Recto

Colour woodblock oban print. Travellers climbing steep gradient on coastal path; one person carried in sedan chair; another man turning back to those following; Mt Fuji coated with snow across Suruga Bay. With poem by Yamabe no Akahito. Trimmed slightly on all sides. Nishiki-e on paper. Inscribed, signed and sealed.

Image description

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