Five Hokusai works confirmed as authentic prints at Japan Ukiyoe Museum

A museum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, said Monday five woodblock prints it owns have been confirmed as authentic works by famed ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Fake copies of the set have been circulating in large quantities since the Meiji Era, with only a few originals confirmed. With the latest discovery, the Japan Ukiyoe Museum became the only institution to possess originals of all five works in the set.

The five works, all 26-by-19 cm, are based on ghost stories, and are believed to have been created at around the same time as Hokusais masterpiece, the “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” which was painted between 1832 and 1833.

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Spirit of the Rising Sun Tested

KATSUSHIKA Hokusai, born in Edo — today’s Tokyo — in 1760, created the most memorable image to have emerged from Japan’s whole long, brilliant culture.

It is The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which Hokusai created when he was in his 60s. The wave dwarfs Mt Fuji in the background.

The wall of water is sometimes represented as a tsunami, although some opinion insists it depicts an ocean wave. Will the 21st-century great wave eclipse the country’s spirit or propel it to rediscover its greatness? Japan was not in a good head space when the colossal earthquake and terrible tsunami struck.

Over the past 20 years the country has suffered the loss of self-esteem by a thousand cuts.

Its great corporations have kept the red sun flag flying by refocusing their markets, and increasingly their production as well, offshore. Toyota and Sony have become international companies, every bit as much as their US predecessors such as Ford and McDonald’s.

But at home, people have grown used to treating their bank accounts like piggy-banks, merely convenient deposits in which cash can be kept safe but earns no interest. Not comforting for a rapidly ageing population.

No national politician except Junichiro Koizumi, who was finally forced from office in 2006 without even losing an election, has contrived to paint a vision to inspire the Japanese people that theirs is a great and exciting future. Instead people’s thoughts have turned inwards.

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