Hokusai’s life was very active. He moved ninety three times, travelled frequently, was married twice and had a few children. His life’s work consists of thirty thousand pictures, as well as illustrations to more than 500 books. He used more than thirty artistic names. He sometimes used one particular name for a year, two years, or even many years. His works are signed with various signatures. It was Hokusai’s achievements that also gave the landscape in woodcuts the status of an independent genre. The originality of his works resulted from his use of perspective, his way of applying lines and the specific combination of colours used. The composition’s theme and components were invariably well thought-out.
In spite of the development of new trends and technologies in this artistic field, the instruments used in calligraphy have hardly changed since the technique was invented. They were, and still are, similar to those that were formerly used by art painters. They used to be called ”the four treasures” or ”the four valuables”. These were: washi − Japanese paper of high quality and high hygroscopicity, made from mulberry paper, brushes (thin and thick − sometimes very thick, as it can be seen in Rikō Takahashi's calligraphy) made of animal hair planted in a bamboo or wooden handle, ink cubes mixed with water on an ongoing basis, a stone used for pounding the ink, and a water dispenser.
Rikō Takahashi is an outstanding Japanese calligraphy artist operating in the Avant-garde style. Thanks to her exceptional creativity and freedom in expressing ideas, she makes works that go beyond common trends, though she does not cut herself off from the rich tradition of Japanese calligraphy. In general, she creates her works with black ink on white paper, as in the case of traditional calligraphy, but she also often uses coloured paints mixed with ink. Along with the austere, two-colour (black and white) aesthetics of calligraphies, it produces a remarkable effect.
In One hundred views of Mount Fuji, Hokusai brilliantly displayed his virtuosity in drawing and creating an unusually slick and innovative composition by using mere outlines, which were often very delicate, and flat patches of greys of various shades. The artist depicted the elegant and simple shape of Fuji in numerous well-thought-out contexts, taking into consideration all possible points of view: different times of a day (at dawn, sunset, dusk), in various weather conditions (in beautiful weather, stormy weather, bright sunlight and mist), from different sides, both from near and far. The mountain frequently consists of a dominant feature, but in other cases it is reduced to a small patch in the distance and one needs to look closely for it among other details.
The history of Japanese calligraphy dates back to about the 6th century AD, when the Chinese system of writing was introduced to the islands. Although, at first, the Japanese used the Chinese language in writing, soon they started writing in their own language using the Chinese signs kanji (Jap.), sometimes modifying them. On the basis of the Chinese ideographs, various Japanese forms of syllabic writing evolved that enabled people to write in their own language.
In Japan, suiseki stones are regarded as works of art which are to be admired. These stones are formed by the forces of nature, and take the shapes of mountains, islands, waterfalls, and other landscape features (such as country cottages). They are also embedded and displayed on special trays and carved bases.
According to the legend of the beginnings of nō, the Okina mask fell from the sky, which confirms its extra-terrestrial origin (it is assumed that the nō theatre has its origins in secret ceremonies, to which only men were admitted). The stone, which marks the spot where it fell to earth — called the grave of the mask — today stands in the village of Kawanishi.
A mask in the nō theatre is a privilege on the one hand, and a restriction on the other. Its donning is accompanied by a special ritual, which always takes place in the mirror room, off stage; the actor enters dressed in costume. Accepting the mask — the new identity — is the last and most important element of embodying the character. Earlier, the actor bows to the mask, to express his respect to the ancestors who had donned it before.
For Japan, the Edo epoch (1600–1868), under shogunate rule, was a time of isolation from all external influences, but also a time of prosperity and peace, solidified by the established social order (in a highly hierarchical society, everyone played a specific role – samurais constituted the most privileged class of the bakufu).
With the first wave of Buddhism that swept the entire archipelago, a Hindu bodhisattva arrived in Japan: Avalokiteshvara. In India, he was considered the spiritual son of Buddha Amitabha (in Japanese – Amida), and also the “ocean of compassion” as well as the embodiment of Mahayana virtues.