Katsushika Hokusai: Sazaidö at the Five Hundred Rakan Temple - Honolulu Museum of Art

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai

Title: Sazaidö at the Five Hundred Rakan Temple

Date: c. 1830 - 1834

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Source: Honolulu Museum of Art
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The long lines of handsome kasuri kimonos worn by two women viewing Mount Fuji add contrast to the rather plain temple balcony where they stand. The art of kasuri was introduced to Japan from the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) in the seventeenth century. When Japanese warriors of the Satsuma clan invaded and conquered Okinawa in 1609, they brought Okinawa's famed ramie textiles back to Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima prefecture) as tribute. Many of them were made by the kasuri technique, thus planting the seeds of this intricate dyeing process in mainland Japan. Kasuri fabric making was well developed in the Satsuma region by the mid-eighteenth century, and by Hokusai's and Hiroshige's time, it had spread throughout the country. Kasuri designs decorated humble indigo-blue working clothes of common people everywhere. (from “Blue and White” textiles exhibition 8/28/2008-) - - - - - - - - - - While Hokusai often portrayed people performing their daily tasks and too busy to look at Mount Fuji, in this print he focuses on those who took the trouble to come to this famous viewing spot for the sole purpose of admiring the mountain. They stand on the veranda of the Turban-shell Hall (Sazaidö) of the Five Hundred Rankan temple, a structure that appears to be built to extend out over the river. Men and women are deeply moved, for a moment, by the beauty of Fuji rising in the distance against the blue sky. To the right of the mountain is Honjo, famous for its many lumberyards with stacks of lumber rising above the riverbank (cat. 42). At the right, a couple of pilgrims who climbed to the high veranda with a lot of luggage sit exhausted, for the moment without the energy to appreciate the beautiful mountain. The Five Hundred Rankan Temple belongs to the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism. It was first constructed in Honjo during the Genroku period (1688-1703). Build in three stories, it was a high building at that time, when most houses were only one story. After several reconstructions and relocations, it now stands at Shimo Meguro. The Five Hundred Rankan, a group of legendary elders of the Buddhist faith, had attained enlightenment (nirvana) by their own efforts, for example, by meditation. The temple is dedicated to all five hundred of them. The Turban-shell Hall contained a hundred images of bodhisattvas-enlightened beings who have chosen to remain on earth to help others, rather than ascend to paradise. The key-block was printed in blue. (The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, HOKUSAI AND HIROSHIGE – Great Japanese Prints from the James A. Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts: The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1998 Page 77. Cat. 28) ***************** Here Hokusai uses Western perspective to great effect, drawing the viewer’s eye to Mount Fuji in the center of the composition through the triangular arrangement of people in the foreground, which creates a series of diagonal lines all directed toward the volcano. Most of the people in the print have their gaze fixed on the mountain in the distance. To the right of Mount Fuji, the lumberyards of Honjo, also depicted in another print on display nearby, can be seen. Two pilgrims pause before admiring the view to unload themselves of the portable shrines they carry on their backs. At the far left, the green bundle is marked with the sign of Eijudö, the publisher of the Thirty-six Views series. The combination of pilgrims and the Eijudö mark is common in this series, and may result from the fact that the owner, Nishimura Yohachi, was himself closely associated with the Fuji Cult. Rakan, the Japanese transliteration of the Sanskrit term arhat, were disciples of the Buddha who themselves also attained enlightenment. Although a core group of sixteen rakan is standard, groups of five hundred or more are also common. “Hokusai’s Summit: Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” (09/24/2009-01/06/2010) ******************************

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