Ono Shinden in the Suruga Province by Hokusai

Ono Shinden in the Suruga Province Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist, renowned during the Edo period for his paintings, prints, and woodblocks. He studied wood block printing from Katsukawa Shunshō and published his first prints in 1779. Hokusai’s work was greatly influenced by Chinese art of the time. He was famous for his block prints and his series One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji is generally considered a masterpiece.

Ono Shinden in the Suruga Province is a woodblock painting showing the rice paddy fields of Ono in the Suruga Province. The print is one of a series of woodblock prints called Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji. Despite its name, the series however has 46 blocks, since ten were added at a later date to the series. Ono Shinden in the Suruga Province is among those added subsequently.

In the foreground of the picture are horses carrying huge loads of rice that has just been harvested. A number of farmers / peasants, all dressed similarly in blue like a uniform, are loading the rice on the horses’ backs, managing the horses, or carrying smaller loads on their own backs. Behind them, the rice paddies extend far into the horizon. Birds are flying over the paddies, showing the season. The picture presents a view of the daily life of farmers on a good day during the harvest. Far in the distance, Mount Fuji dominates the skyline.

It provides an apt background for the paddy fields. The series Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji shows Mount Fuji from different perspectives and different locations at different times of the year. The prevalence of the mountain in Hokusai’s works has a religious significance since Mount Fuji is a representation of immortal and eternal life in Japanese Buddhism. Hokusai was a Buddhist of the Nichiren sect and hence gave special attention to the sacred mountain in his various art works. Ono Shinden in the Suruga Province was originally created in 1830. There have been exhibitions of this block print, along with the other forty five, twice in Japan in recent years: at Nagoya City Museum and Tokyo National Museum.

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