Kanji from 1829 and amazing prints by Hokusai

I get emails from AtlasObscura.com; interesting stories on things and places worldwide. This recent issue had an article on rediscovered prints by Hokusai - great little article. BUT you can also link over to the British Museum collection to see hi-rez images of the drawings, including his hand lettered kanji.

In just jumping around I was able to recognize 東京 from the above detail.

On the left of each image is full info including the interpretation.

For a beginner like me, it’s fun to be able to pick out things like Autumn 秋 (from Level 15) along with 九 月, Ninth Month.


If the museum link above doesn’t work it’s also in the smaller article under “freely accessible.”

Happy Hunting!
(ps: full discosure - I looked at “The Great Wave” for years before realizing ふじ山 was even in the picture :unamused:)


I looked at it until 54 seconds ago and didn’t realize that, either.


I also just realized this yesterday, when I saw it on a Uniqlo t-shirt of all places. But I think I only even looked for it after reading the full name: The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. That made me look for the land. Also, there was a sign in the shelves about Mt. Fuji being iconic and all.


It was about a year ago I saw an article, something like “Ten Great Depictions Of Mt. Fuji” - and I thought “What’s The Wave doing in h?.. ooh yeah”


I actually realized there’s Mt. Fuji in the Great Wave picture after visiting a museum in Tokyo. There was an exhibit dedicated to the artist and and a mrntion that he liked to paint different views of Mt. Fuji. I think there’s something like 50 pictures with a similar theme.


“Thirty-six”, which actually has ten bonus images, making it forty-six.


Yeah it sorta blew my mind when I realized the wave was part of the views of Fuji.

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The Great Wave is actually the first of Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views. He knew he had a hit.


Speaking of the original topic (and not the one disclaimer at the bottom), I think I would have said that was Chinese… e.g. what is (a variant of 二) doing there?


The variant numbers are still used in formal situations to prevent some unscrupulous type with a pen from changing a 二 into a 三, say, or a 一 into a 十. You can see them on the currency, for example.

Not entirely sure if that answers what it’s doing here, though. :stuck_out_tongue:


Wow, that’s so cool! TIL.

I did a quick Google search to learn more about this, and here is one result… for the lazy :wink:



That is cool! Noticed the Daiji for Three. Looks like “Participate” and also pronounced さん.

On the Chinese/Japanese kanji history Kristen gives a great explanation on this podcast about 20 min in. A lot of appropriation and customizing with every era change.

(What’s The Difference Between On’yomi and Kun’yomi Kanji?)
Stream episode What's the Difference Between On'yomi and Kun'yomi Kanji? by Tofugu podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud


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