This is the 200th Post for the blog! I was just going to phone it in, and do a retrospective. Instead, I figured, why not a special post, why not a treat on a special day, with an additional treat of special and fascinating subject matter. In this week’s regular Monday article, we looked at traditional motifs that frequently appear on bonsai containers and come from hand scrolls, folding screens and statues, myths, and legends. In this post we will look at traditional motifs that are derived from the famous ukiyo-e(woodblock prints) of Ando Hiroshige and Katsushita Hokusai.
The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō
The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō are a series of woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige(born Ando Hiroshige) made in 1833-1834. He created the prints after his first journey upon the Tōkaidō road, where he was part of an official party escorting a gift of horses for the Imperial court. The Tōkaidō road was a major trade and travel artery through Japan, connecting Edo to the capital at the time, Kyoto. The stations along the Tōkaidō road were way stations for travelers and merchants to restock supplies, eat, and rest. While Hiroshige created more than 30 versions of the prints, the Hōeidō version is the original and most famous, and also the source material most often used for depictions on bonsai containers.
The 36 Views of Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is considered a symbol of Japanese National identity, and is sacred in Japanese religious tradition. Perhaps no other visual representations of “Fuji San”(Mr. or Sir Fuji, an often heard referral showing respect and deference) is more emblematic than Katsushita Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji. The multicolor woodblock prints depict Mount Fuji from various views and locations, with surrounding towns and environments, and in differing weather. These iconic woodblock prints(ukiyo-e) were created at the height of Hokusai’s career, from 1830 to 1833. The vast majority of bonsai container depictions from the 36 Views are of Fine Wind, Clear Morning, Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit, and TheGreat Wave Off Kanagawa, although many other scenes do appear regularly.
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
While The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is actually a part of Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji series, it deserves its own section due to its fame and the frequency with which it appears on bonsai containers. The print dates to the late Edo period, 1829-1833, and depicts 3 boats battling a giant rogue wave in the Sagami bay, with Fuji San in the background.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my 200th post, and reading about the traditional woodblock prints that inspire modern bonsai container art. In the next installment of the series, we’ll look at shapes and details to pots that have named origins, be they individual artists, kilns, or eras.
I've been collecting Japanese Bonsai pots for a few years, and feel that the famous, and some of the lesser known but great Japanese pot artists could do with a little more writing and exposure in English.
Additionally, this blog will feature My own And others bonsai for discussion.
The purpose of this blog is to further knowledge of Japanese pottery and Japanese style bonsai. If you have any questions about Japanese bonsai pottery, or would like to acquire pots by some of the potters presented in the blog, feel free to email me at