Tokyo old town bicycle stroll #02
Searching for the remnants of Edo’s oldtown legend, Hokusai.(Part 2)

Tracing the footsteps of Katsushika Hokusai by bicycle – Part 2 of the short series. This time, we will start with Hokusai in his twenties, when he entered the Katsukawa school and plunged into the world of ukiyo-e.

Table of Contents

 1. In the Sumo Town (Ages 20~)
2. Man of the North Star (Ages 30~)
 3. Becoming Hokusai, Katsushika Hokusai (Ages 40~)

1. In the Sumo Town (Ages 20~)

Hokusai was allowed to use the name Katsukawa Shunro within just one year of entering the Katsukawa school, where he produced ukiyo-e prints (note that he changed his art name over 30 times in his lifetime, but this column will consistently use “Hokusai”).
At that time, the motifs of ukiyo-e prints included beauty prints, actor prints, and sumo prints.

In 1768, when Hokusai was nine years old, the venue for official sumo tournaments (sanctioned by the shogunate) was relocated to Eko-in Temple, near Ryogoku Bridge. Eko-in Temple served as a permanent sumo venue until 1946. Naturally, Hokusai would have visited the temple many times to observe the muscles and movements of sumo wrestlers.

The birthplace of modern sumo, Fukagawa Hachiman Shrine. From here, the sumo venue was relocated to Eko-in Temple.
At the port near Hachiman Shrine, I rented a DOCOMO Bike Share again this time.

*Please also refer to the following link for instructions on how to rent DOCOMO Bike Share for visitors to Japan.
How to Use Docomo Bike Share for Visitors in Japan

Eko-in Temple. In 1936, the Sumo Association erected a monument called “Chikara(Power) zuka” here to commemorate the former sumo elders.
The first bronze statue of Hokusai in Sumida Ward, installed on the exterior bench of the Ryogoku headquarters of Tokyo Higashi Shinkin Bank. Behind it, there is a painting of sumo wrestlers drawn by Hokusai.

Also, around this time, Hokusai occasionally wrote anonymously in addition to creating illustrations. His experience working in a lending library might have been useful.

2. Man of the North Star (Ages 30~)

Excommunication and Revelation

At the age of 34, after the death of his master, Katsukawa Shunsho, Hokusai faced harassment from jealous senior disciples, which led him to leave the Katsukawa school. He then trained in various artistic styles, but was prohibited from using the name Shunro, and it is said that he lived in extreme poverty, selling chili peppers and calendars to make ends meet.

During this time, there is a story passed down about Hokusai at Yanagishima’s Mt. Myouken Hosshou Temple. It is said that after praying to Hokushin Myoken Bodhisattva (a Buddhist deity symbolizing the Big Dipper) to become a splendid painter, he was struck by lightning on his way back, which led to the blossoming of his talent.

The temple of Hokusai’s devout faith, Yanagishima’s Mt. Myouken Hosshou Temple
A monument introducing Hokusai’s paintings related to Mt. Myoken held overseas

Also, Hokusai’s biography tells another story: On his way back from visiting Myoken Bodhisattva, Hokusai was struck by lightning and fell into a rice field. However, he calmly remarked, “This must also be a blessing, a sign that my fame (thunder name ) is about to spread,” without batting an eye.

“A lunatic trying to catch a lightning bolt”

Considering that Hokusai composed such a Senryu (A form of haiku), I could not help but wonder if he became so absorbed in trying to capture the image of lightning in his paintings that he ended up being struck by it.

From “Shaka Goichidai Zue” (Illustrated Biography of the Great Sage of Shakyamuni), a depiction of Raijin destroying a palace. The destructive expression reminiscent of Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga “AKIRA”. From the Shimane Art Museum website.

In any case, at the age of 39, he took two characters from his revered deity, Hokushin Myoken, and adopted the artistic name “Hokusai Tokimasa”.

Extra : There was also an apartment nearby (to the west of Koutou Tenso Shrine) where the protagonist of the movie “PERFECT DAYS,” set in the Sumida area, lived.

3. Becoming Hokusai, Katsushika Hokusai (Ages 40~)

I have arrived at Mimeguri Shrine, near the Sumida River. During the unveiling at Mimeguri Shrine in 1799 when Hokusai was 40, the lanterns and picture frames he painted garnered quite a reputation.

Mimeguri Shrine, with ties to the Mitsui family (now the Mitsui Group). Speaking of Mitsui, it is associated with Mitsukoshi, Japan’s first department store founded by the Mitsui family.

Ushijima Shrine, near Mimeguri Shrine, is also associated with Hokusai.

Ushijima Shrine
“Susa-no-o no Mikoto Yakujin Taiji no Zu” (Picture of Susa-no-o no Mikoto Exorcising Evil Spirits) (Estimated Reconstruction). Created by Hokusai at the age of 86. Originally dedicated to Ushijima Shrine but later destroyed by fire. A replica estimated to resemble the original colors is exhibited at the Sumida Hokusai Museum.

Adopting the Name”Katsushika Hokusai”
In modern Japan, the energetic years of one’s forties. Hokusai vigorously engaged in producing ukiyo-e prints, Nikuhitsu-e (hand-painted works), and illustrations for novels, among other endeavors, earning high praise from society. Then, at the age of 47, he adopted the name “Katsushika Hokusai.”

By the way, “Katsushika” was an old name for a wide area encompassing present-day eastern Tokyo, Saitama, Ibaraki, and Chiba.

Hokusai seemed to have a fondness for this term, as he even used it as a pen name for submitting Senryu. It is very much like a true downtown kid to cherish the name of their hometown. Even today, people from this area might refer to themselves as “Honjo kids” (for example, I consider myself a “Kanda kids”).

However, it is said that the average life expectancy at the time was 45 years old, but Hokusai’s life was just getting started. We have run out of space, so stay tuned for Part 3, where we’ll we will introduce the latter half of his life, including the creation of “Hokusai Manga” and “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.”

🚲Hokusai Bicycle Stroll course

Reference Site:
Sumida Hokusai Museum :
Shimane Art Museum :

🚴‍♂️Hokusai bicycle stroll🚴‍♂️
#01 Birth to Teens
#02 20s to 40s
#03 50s and Beyond


Shitamachi Kombu
Weekend writer. Born in Kanda, Tokyo, and the third generation “Edokko” (Tokyoite). Interested in rediscovering the shitamachi (oldtown) area. Relies on an electric bicycle daily as a commuting companion. Suffers from a poor sense of direction. A fan of essayist Sadao Shouji. Writing under the pen name “Shitamachi Kombu,” inspired by the classic snack “Miyako (downtown) Kombu.”

下町自転車散歩 #02

葛飾北斎の足跡を自転車でたどる短期連載第2回。今回は、勝川一門に入門し、浮世絵の世界に飛び込んだ20代の北斎から始まります。 目次  1. 相撲の町にて(20歳~) 2. 北斗の人(30歳~) 3. 北斎、葛飾北斎となる(40歳~) 1、 相撲の町にて(20歳~) 北斎は勝川一門に入門わずか1年で勝川春朗を名乗ることを許され、錦絵を製作します。(なお、彼は生涯で画号を30以上変えていますが、本コラムでは北斎で統一します。)当時の浮世絵のモチーフは、美人画、役者絵、そして相撲絵など。 北斎が9歳の1768年、勧進相撲(幕府に認可された公式な相撲)の会場が両国橋からほど近い回向院に移され、以降回向院は1946年まで相撲常設館として賑わいました。当然、北斎も力士の筋肉や動きを観察するため幾度となく通ったことでしょう。 ※訪日外国人の方に向けたドコモバイクシェアの借り方については次のページもご参照ください。訪日外国人の方がドコモバイクシェアを利用する方法 なお、この頃北斎は挿絵の他に匿名で文章も書くことがありました。貸本屋で働いた経験が役立ったのかもしれませんね。 2、北斗の人(30歳~) 破門と天啓 34歳。師匠の勝川春章の没後、北斎の才能を妬んだ兄弟子たちからの嫌がらせなどもあり、北斎は勝川派を飛び出します。その後さまざまな流派の門をたたいて画法を修行しますが、春朗の名前を使うことも禁じられ、唐辛子やカレンダーを売り歩いてしのぐほど極貧の時代だったといいます。 このころの北斎について、柳嶋妙見山法性寺にはこんな話が伝えられています。曰く、北斎が北辰妙見菩薩(北斗七星を象徴した仏)に […]

下町自転車散歩 #02

北斎の全盛期である後半生を自転車でたどる、北斎自転車散歩最終回。漫画、アートパフォーマンス、富岳三十六景、富士山への憧憬。本所地域から浅草地域を巡り、北斎の名残を探します。 目次  1. 「漫画」の生まれた日(50代) 2. その男、変わり者につき(60代) 3. The Great Wave(70代) 4. 絵と旅する男(80代) 5. 忘れられた巨人(90代) 『ドラゴンボール』、『Drスランプ』などを生み出した漫画家、鳥山明氏が2024年に亡くなり、世界中でその別れが惜しまれました。「漫画(Manga)」は世界でも共通語となった日本発のカルチャーですが、その言葉を生み出した人物をご存じでしょうか。 1、 「漫画」の生まれた日(50代) 55歳。依頼されて書き溜めたスケッチ集、『北斎漫画(海外では北斎スケッチ)』シリーズを刊行すると、これが予想外の大ヒットします。版元からどんなタイトルが良いかと問われた北斎は、「漫ろに(=自由に)書いた画なので、漫画がよい。」と名付けたそうです。「漫画」という言葉はこの時初めて誕生したそうなので、北斎はいわば漫画の名付け親ですね。 北斎の伝記を著した19世紀フランスの作家エドモン・ド・ゴンクールは北斎漫画を、「魔法じみたスナップショット」と評しています。 パフォーマー北斎なお、北斎は絵を公開制作するという現代アート的なパフォーマンスも行っていました。名古屋逗留の際には、本願寺名古屋別院にて、120畳(約186㎡)もの大きさの絵を描いたそうです。地面から見ている人々には何が描かれているかわからず、高い場所から見下ろしてようやく達磨の絵だと分か […]

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