One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each Explained by the Nurse (Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki), Fun’ya no Yasuhide

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎 (1760-1849)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, mid-1830s
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 25.7 x 37.8 cm (10 1/8 x 14 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Edo period (1615 - 1868), hanshita-e, Japan
Provenance research underway.

In 1836, at the age of seventy-six, Hokusai launched his last major woodblock print series. The subject was an ingenious presentation of an ancient anthology of poetry completed in 1214 by Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241), which contained one hundred works by as many renowned Japanese poets. Thorough knowledge of Hyakunin isshu (The anthology of one hundred poets) continued through the centuries to be a basic element in the repertoire of the literate person. Hokusai amended the title of his series to The anthology of one hundred poets as told by the nurse or old woman, and affected the perspective of a simple, uncomplicated woman in whose mind the scenes are imagined. These images are accompanied by the ancient poems, recorded in small squares in the upper right of each work.

This approach provides Hokusai the opportunity for multiple puns. For example, in Cherry through the Gate, workmen are shown pulling an entire cherry tree through the gate of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. The poem was composed by Lady Ise on order of the Emperor Ichijo (ruled 987-1012) to commemorate the reception of one delicate, blossoming cherry branch from a courtier. Hokusai's interpretation plays on the poem's vague language and is quite literal as it envisions the whole tree's arrival, perhaps suggesting present-day vulgarity contrasted with court elegance of a bygone era.

Only twenty-seven of the prints were completed, however final preparatory drawings such as these are extant for at least sixty-four more subjects. Forty-one of these drawings are in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art.

Published References
  • Mosaku Ishida, Juzo Suzuki, Umehara Ryūzaburō, Narasaki Muneshige. Nihon hanga bijutsu zenshu. 9 vols., Tokyo, 1960-1962. vol. 5: p. 106, fig. 67.
  • Theodore Bowie. The Drawings of Hokusai. Bloomington. fig. 39.
  • Peter Morse, Clay MacCauley. Hokusai: One Hundred Poets., 1st ed. New York. pp. 64-65.
  • Ann Yonemura, Nagata Seiji, Kobayashi Tadashi, Asano Shugo, Timothy Clark, Naito Masatoshi. Hokusai: Volume Two. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 150, p. 102.
  • Ann Yonemura. Hokusai: Volume One. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 73, pp. 106-107.
  • Joshua Mostow. Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin-isshu in Word and Image. Honolulu. pp. 206-08.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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