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Hokusai’s 1829 woodblock print “The Great Wave at Kanagawa” is without doubt one of the most enduring images of world art. It depicts a stormy sea off the coast of the Kanagawa Prefecture, located southwest of Tokyo, and has historically been home to a great number of fishing ports. The ‘great wave’, which the artist so deftly illustrates, is both an actual and a symbolic deluge. Due to a variety of external conflicts, the Japanese authorities of the Edo period decided to sever all ties with the outside world for more than 260 years — between 1603 and 1868. During this long period of isolation, Japan developed a remarkably singular and particular culture, primarily in the fields of architecture, sculpture, painting, ceramics, porcelain and woodblock prints, each of which was utterly unrelated to any outside influence. Hokusai’s iconic image was completed as part of his series ‘Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji’, which as a body of work is a masterpiece of poetic intimacy. A popular subject for myths, legends, and literature, the volcano had played a part in Japanese culture since the 8th century. Yet it was the poignant humanism with which Hokusai approached the subject that earned his contribution its highest place in the Mount Fuji canon. Almost engulfed beneath the teetering waves the sullen basket of weary fishermen appears caught between two monoliths of national identity — literature and nature. Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave’ is therefore both a spiritual sibling of the towering might of Mount Fuji — a less sympathetic element that swallows men and their meager plans — and a stark premonition of the rising tide of modernism that would soon wash old Japan away for ever