Pounding Rice for Mochi

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎 (1760-1849)
Inscription: Momomoto Hinamaro 桃本雛麻呂 (1764-1830)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, ca. 1822
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 54.4 x 85 cm (21 7/16 x 33 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Lawrence and Sonia Klein
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, rice, ukiyo-e, work
Provenance research underway.

Pounding rice for mochi (rice cakes) is a longstanding Japanese custom that marks the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one. Worshipers offer mochi to the gods and consume the rice cakes to ensure their own well-being in the coming year. In its treatment of this familiar activity, Hokusai’s humorous rendering resembles his widely circulated printed books, Hokusai manga. Here, a man strains to separate a mallet from the sticky rice while a woman struggles to hold the wooden container in place. An inscribed poem to the right reads:

wak­ narishi                    At the advent of spring
kao miru haru ni           we prepare offerings of rice cakes,
utsuru tote                      round as a mirror,
mochi wa kagami ni     in which the season finds reflected
torasekeru kana            her own youthful countenance.

Translation by Alfred Haft

Published References
  • Gian Carlo Calza. Hokusai. Exh. cat. London and New York. cat. 50, 63.
  • Narasaki Muneshige. Hokusai. vol. 117 Tokyo. p. 19, pl. 22.
  • Ann Yonemura, Nagata Seiji, Kobayashi Tadashi, Asano Shugo, Timothy Clark, Naito Masatoshi. Hokusai: Volume Two. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 78, p. 32, 73.
  • Ann Yonemura. Hokusai: Volume One. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 34, pp. 42-43.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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