- December 23 2015
Hokusai Museum In Obuse, Nagano Prefecture
Obuse is the smallest town in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The town once flourished along the Chikuma River in the Edo era. The town experienced its decline after infrastructure was built up during the Meiji Restoration, but now Obuse has become well known for its chestnut and sweets.
Relationship Of Hokusai And Obuse
Have you ever heard of the world famous Ukiyo-e painter Hokusai Katsushika? He painted Fugoku-Hyakkei (100 views of Mt. Fuji) which portrayed Mt. Fuji from different perspectives. Many western artists were very much influenced by Hokusai’s unique paintings.
Obuse is a place that is famous for its connection with Hokusai.
One Ukiyo-e artist, Kozan Takai, was also a wealthy Nagano merchant and had a close relationship with Hokusai. Takai built a studio annex for Hokusai in his house called Hekiiken, and Hokusai visited Obuse on many occasions and spent time there in his 80s.
(There is a Kozan Takai Museum in Obuse, too)
Some of Hokusai’s original art is on display in Obuse.
This painting was for a festival food stands’ ceiling. They were very dynamic and vibrantly coloured. Can you believe these were painted in his 80’s?
Here is an another ceiling painting.
Look at this kick-ass dragon! And take a closer look, Hokusai drew each scales on its body! Oh, don’t worry the dragon is not going to pop out and get you!
Hokusai Museum Has Many More!
The pictures above are shown in the Hokusai Museum in Obuse. Of course these are not only pictures they have!
The museum has Hokusai’s original paintings as permanent exhibits as well as special exhibits each season.
When I visited, a special exhibit from Chicago Wenston Collection was here as part of an international tour.
Let’s go inside!
To visit the permanent exhibit, the entrance fee is 800 yen, but when special exhibits are held in the museum, it is 1,000 yen.
Hokusai called himself Gakyo-Roujin (meaning “old cruel painter”). Gakyo-Roujin welcomes you at the entrance (this is his self-portrait). He called himself old, partly because he had an unbelievably long life at the time. Hokusai died at 90.
You can see documentary video of Hokusai’s biography, influence of Ukiyo-e, etc in a hall, and the museum has 4 rooms devoted to paintings. Of course there is a room for ceiling paintings too!
Two documentary videos are available in the hall which have English subtitles. This is great opportunity to learn about Hokusai and Ukiyo-e.
However, the exhibits don’t have much captions, and there are only a few in Japanese. Of course you can still enjoy each painting in the museum and interpret the meaning of paintings by how you see each one.
The gift shop has a variety of items with Hokusai’s paintings. Find the item with your favourite pattern!
These are T-shirts of Hokusai’s paintings.
3,800 yen isn’t cheap, but they look so cool and some can only be found at the shop.
Handy fans have Hokusai’s art, of course!
Tenugui (washcloth/handkerchief) can make for good wall decor!
Hokusai was a popular Ukiyo-e artist, but also an author of Hokusai Manga. He drew thousands of funny faces in it. Wow! Japanese Manga has existed since Hokusai’s time...no wonder Japan is a famous Manga country!
Actually, Hokusai’s art is mostly found overseas in places like Boston, England, etc. After the Meiji Restoration, people didn’t value Japanese culture...so who valued Japanese art? Collectors in the west! Collectors from overseas bought Ukiyo-e and other Japanese art for very little money and art went abroad during this time.
Because of that situation, this is a rare chance to see Hokusai’s original paintings in Japan. In particular, ceiling paintings by Hokusai are very rare, and only available in Hokusai Museum!
The museum doesn’t have all his paintings because of that historical background, but this is a very special moment in which you can see his art in Obuse where he loved to spend his later years. When you visit Obuse, why not step into the museum and see his unique and dynamic art?