On Friday I took the Nagano Dentetsu to nearby Obuse. The town name is pronounced like "Oh-boo-say" but whenever I see it written in English I always seem to read it in my head as "Abuse" or "Obese", of course neither of these things have any relation to the beautiful town of Obuse, the once home of the famous Hokusai.
Now even if you do not know Hokusai by name, you will know his work, or at least one of the many appropriated versions of his work. In fact he is responsible for one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of Japanese art in history. It is part of a lesser known series, The Thirty Six Views of Mt Fuji, it shows Fuji-san being engulfed by a tsunami, it is more commonly known as The Great Wave. It has inspired and influenced painters such as Van Gogh and Brett Whiteley and was simplified to create the Quicksilver logo. This is the work of Hokusai, and Obuse is full of it. I spend most of the day on a Hokusai hunting trip, which spanned the Ganshoin Temple in which his work adorns the ceiling, the gallery dedicated to his works which houses two enormous festival floats that he elaborately decorated and many of his preliminary sketches and smaller print works, and the home turned museum of the lord who initially invited Hokusai to Obuse, with whom he stayed often in the area.
The lord Kozan Takai was also an artist and calligrapher in his own right, the museum also houses many of his own works. His calligraphy is particularly strong and powerful, two main examples of his work are a pair of giant banners which are hoisted in the parades during the Summer festivals, and what a spectacular sight they must be. Kozan Takai in his later life took to painting nothing but demons and devils, and many of his paintings are dedicated to this subject matter, including one very diverting work of some devilish card playing characters.