Traveling with Art: Mount Fuji, Japan

What mountain could be better-known than Mount Fuji?

 

These hand-painted postcards featuring Mount Fuji have been created with care in an example of fine handiwork as testament to this famous icon of Japan.

 

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Handpainted postcard showing the view from near Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and is an active stratovolcano. It sits on Honshu Island, the most populated island of the country.

 

The first to climb Mount Fuji was a monk in 663, and the first foreigner, named Sir Rutherford Alcock, reached the summit in eight hours in 1868.

 

When Edo (which is now Tokyo) became the capital of Japan, people began noticing the mountain from the local Tokaido-road. But even before then, people had admired the beautiful mountain.

 

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The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

The mountain has inspired artists, writers and poets for centuries. Perhaps the most famous art is Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai. This set contains views of the mountain from different seasons and viewpoints, perhaps the most famous of which is The Great Wave off Kanagawa which was published between 1830 and 1833.

 

From as early as the 7th century, the mountain has been considered sacred. Today, shrines still sit at the base and on the ascent for practitioners of Shinto.

 

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Art from the Brooklyn Museum, featuring Mount Fuji

Some scientists say that Fuji is due for another eruption soon, though the evidence for such a claim is shaky. The last eruption took place in 1707.

 

Today, Mount Fuji makes for a beautiful tourist destination, whether you’re climbing to the top or admiring from afar. And it’s a majestic view for all of the locals of Tokyo.

 

Have you seen Mount Fuji in person? Let us know in the comments!

The Symbolism and Myth Behind the Koi Fish

The koi fish is renowned for its good luck and beauty. But what is less commonly known about this graceful fish?

We’ve covered symbolism before – flowers and jewelry, particularly in the Victorian era. But here’s one symbol that has lasted to this day.

Art by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, (1798 - 1861)

Art by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, (1798 – 1861)

In Japan and other Asian cultures, on top of gracing ponds with their beauty, koi fish have a lot of hidden meaning behind them. This particular fish is seen as the example of many celebrated qualities.

In the early 1900s, a koi craze swept the nation of Japan and subsequently spread to the rest of the world.

It’s worth mentioning that the Japanese use “koi” as a general term for all carp, but the rest of the world uses the word for one certain colored kind of Japanese carp.

The term “living jewels” has been applied to koi. Koi are known to symbolize friend and romantic love, as well as strength and courage.

One Japanese or Chinese legend tells the story of a koi climbing a waterfall on the Yellow River toward the Dragon’s Gate at the top of the falls. Many carp would try to swim through the water, but few would be brave enough to make the final stretch up the waterfall. If a carp was able to finish the journey through the Dragon’s Gate, it would be transformed into a powerful dragon.

Through this story, the koi has also become a figure for perseverance and bravery.

A Chinese porcelain piece from the Ming Dynasty featuring koi fish.

A Chinese porcelain piece from the Ming Dynasty featuring koi fish.

Most traditionally, the koi fish is seen as lucky.

Of course, koi fish tattoos are quite popular today for their symbolism. And there’s plenty of koi fish collectibles and art out there for those who want to celebrate this beautiful fish.