Talk:The Great Wave off Kanagawa

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Literal translation[edit]

I have seen this work under different names on different Web sites and Wikipedia articles. To avoid confusion and insure accuracy, here is a literal translation--to the best of my ability--of the Japanese name (Kanagawa oki nami ura).

-- JHP 00:05, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

In this title, "oki" does not mean "large". The Japanese word meaning "large" is 大きい, ōkii. This kanji, 沖 oki, means "offing" or "off the shore of."
The kanji 裏, ura, means "behind." So I would translate the title as "Behind the wave off the shore of Kanagawa." It's in the 36 Views of Mount Fuji series, so presumably it means "[View of Mount Fuji] behind the wave ... ."
Fg2 00:10, 15 February 2007 (UTC)
Hey, thanks for the correction. And you corrected me so quickly, too. -- JHP 00:21, 15 February 2007 (UTC)
It's odd there's no common name for this in English, considering it's so famous.--Cúchullain t/c 00:33, 15 February 2007 (UTC)
By the way, is there a preferred way to hyphenate the name. I've seen Kanagawa-oki nami-ura, Kanagawa okinami-ura, Kanagawa oki nami ura, and Kanagawa oki nami-ura. Also, can ura be translated as under or beneath? The British Museum translates it as Under the wave, off Kanagawa[1] and here someone translated ura as beneath. Those translations seem to refer to the people in the boats. -- JHP 00:35, 15 February 2007 (UTC)
Don't know a convention for hyphenating it. The "Chicago Manual of Style" recommends using hyphens sparingly in Japanese, so I'd opt for as few as possible (perhaps none).
The word ura means the opposite of omote, the front or face. I suppose if you regard the skyward face of the wave as the omote, the mountain beneath the wave is in (within the print, not in real life) the ura. That might be their thinking (but of course it's just a guess).
Here are a couple of museums.
  • The Great Wave at Kanagawa (Met[2])
  • Under the Wave at Kanawaga (The Great Wave) (Hill-Stead[3])
Fg2 01:55, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

Removed text[edit]

The text "As in other Japanese woodblock prints a team of four individuals are involved in the production of any print. These are the publisher, designer, carver and the printer. The publisher brings together the team and is in charge of the overall production of the work. The designer draws the general outline of the work and sends his drawings to the carver who carves the design into a woodblock. Hokusai was the name of the designer of this work. At the final stage, the printer applies the paint to the appropriate parts of the woodblock and prints it into paper. This type of production allowed these works to be mass producible and these prints were popular in 19th century Japan. These works of art are in contrast with the standard Western easel paintings which are created generally to be unique and can be purchased exclusively by the elite." was removed from this article because it is not specific to this work. Some of these ideas might best be expressed in the article on ukiyo-e where they are more generally applicable. Fg2 06:11, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Question: how many are there?[edit]

Is it known how many of this print were produced? How many copies are currently known, and where are they? Any knowledge, speculation, or mystery about that would be a good addition to this article. I certainly would like to know. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:51, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

====One estimate I have seen is that perhaps a total of ten to fifteen thousand copies were produced over the life of the print run. At present, it is estimated that around one thousand copies exist in the hands of museums and private collectors. There are enough available that the going price for a copy is a rather low (for the art world) $25,000. Of course, the existing copies exist in varying conditions. Copies printed at the beginning of the print run from pristine blocks command more than prints from the end of the run printed from worn blocks.Oldbubblehead (talk) 10:25, 30 December 2013 (UTC)

Question: Are there different variants? Where is the original?[edit]

I've seen "versions" of this pictures where the boats are "missing". Now I would like to know if they are just "photoshoped" or if the artist created different sketches/pictures before he settled with the final result. For example the Picasso museum in Barcelona features a series of sketches and the final picture, showing the process of "creating" a painting. 21:57, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

There are other images of great waves by Hokusai, including others with Mt Fuji. They are not variants of this image per se, but works in their own right.

One example is the following, which is from Hokusai's other Fuji Series "100 Views of Mt. Fuji".

Great Wave (from Hokusai's "100 Views of Mt Fuji")

There are other similar images by Hokusai, which can be readily found via Google, Bing, Yahoo or other image search services.

At the same time, it is true that the image has been much imitated and photo-shopped. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:32, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

What you see depends on where you're from[edit]

The following material was in the article:

This reversed version shows westerners how The Great Wave off Kanagawa appears to Japanese viewers.
Web training consultant Loretta Weiss-Morris suggests that westerners and orientals see the picture differently because they have been trained to read in different directions. A westerner scans the picture from left to right, sees the wave first and interprets it as the main subject of the picture. On the other hand a Japanese scans from right to left, sees the boats first and interprets them as the main subject. The reversed image on the right may give westerners an idea of Japanese viewers see the picture.[1]

The asserted reversal is not specific to this woodblock print, nor is it specific to Japanese art. The same argument could be applied to any Western or other painting. A separate article could be written about the phenomenon. Readers interested in this phenomenon would then be able to locate the phenomenon without having to search for this one example. Fg2 (talk) 01:15, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

Yes, but what is this phenomenon called? Culturally-determined image-perceiving process sounds too clunky, so we can rule out cultural differences in perceiving images. Hoo boy. − Twas Now ( talkcontribse-mail ) 01:27, 19 July 2008 (UTC)
Don't know. But the article is in Category:WikiProject Visual arts articles, so people at WikiProject Visual arts articles might have good suggestions. Fg2 (talk) 02:02, 19 July 2008 (UTC)
Editors over at Wikipedia:WikiProject Psychology, particularly those interested in cognitive psychology, might know of a term to describe this. − Twas Now ( talkcontribse-mail ) 02:29, 19 July 2008 (UTC)
Indeed, they might. Good suggestion. Fg2 (talk) 00:15, 21 July 2008 (UTC)
"Web training consultant" - of course Japanese don't read right to left; they read top to bottom; therefore using this same deft analysis they must see the ocean as being vertical not horizontal. Hop on to any subway train in Tokyo and you'll notice that many (most) the advertisements are written left to right then top to bottom, which must look like they are written backwards to Japanese people. Or possibly the 4.5 billion years of the evolution of sight is barely if at all effected by the 3000 year old human invention of writing and Japanese people see the picture the same way as everyone else. Aepryus (talk) 04:07, 25 February 2009 (UTC)
The Spanish (and French) versions of this article have sections where they talk about this phenomenon. Since this has already been removed from the English version, should I translate them or omit them? Dfl8cornell (talk) 14:16, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
@Aepryus, the reference to scanning right to left has to do with pictures, not writing. Manga in Japanese, for example, and pictorial storytelling in general, go right to left and top to bottom in Japanese. It is precisely pictorial material that is read this way, which is what the discussion here is about, not writing. See the following image from the wiki article on manga.
The reading direction in a traditional manga

This reading from panel to panel also applies within the panels, within the pictures, themselves. This is what is meant by the circled 1, 2 and 3 within the first panel, which is showing how the reader will scan the image within the panel. The opposite is true in Western art. -- (talk) 07:17, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

I think people are overthinking this. You don't "read" a print like this as you would printed text; you look at it. The print is small enough that you take the whole picture in at once. I own a copy and I have talked to many people, both Japanese and westerners, about what they see. The first thing anyone notices when they look at the print is the wave. From there, your eyes travel to the other details, such as Fuji-san and the boats.Oldbubblehead (talk) 11:11, 30 December 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ Loretta Weiss-Morris. "What You See Depends On Where You're From". Retrieved 2008-07-18. 

Question moved from article[edit]

IP editor asked "what does the japanese on the print mean?" Fg2 (talk) 01:52, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

The title of the painting and then the artist's name. Mike H. Fierce! 12:02, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Influence/Derivative works[edit]

An image called "Uprisings" by Kozyndan, was originally created as a cover for the magazine Giant Robot (see issue), and was later used as the cover art for the CD issue of the album As/Is by John Mayer. You can also buy a print of the full image.

[No time to work this into the article just now, leaving here for future reference.]

And, just for interest, though probably not notable enough works to be mentioned in the article, here are some more: -- Quiddity (talk) 18:25, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Also [4] a nice example of a Rasterbator project.

and a few more at Commons:The Great Wave off Kanagawa. -- Quiddity (talk) 21:41, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

Any modern reference to the work would have to be proved notable by Wiki standards, otherwise it amounts to little more than trivia and is the same problem that plagues all "in popular culture sections" in Wiki. The cover of an issue of a magazine and a CD album are hardly notable in their own right. Was there significant media coverage of the subject of the cover/album cover art and how it payed homage to "The Great Wave off Kanagawa"? If not, I don't see how either are more than trivia or why they should be included in the article. There are literally thousands of homage works to "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" in modern culture (including a ton of other magazine and album covers). Wiki is against just listing these, you'd have to explain how the image in question had a significant impact on popular culture or on the public's' knowledge of or interpretation of the the original work, with sources. (talk) 16:08, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

Guide to copies reproductions restrikes originals etc[edit]

I recall an explanatory page somewhere on the interwebs, giving point by point examples of the variations between some of the more common editions of this print. Close-ups of the wave curls (smooth vs jagged), cloud shapes, details in the seal, etc, were all explained, and example images given. (iirc) It was similar to the explanations, and side-by-side images, at and at

I cannot find it currently; if you do, please add the link. -- Quiddity (talk) 22:06, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

Possible issue in "Derivative Works"[edit]

Apart from the first paragraph, the subsection "Copies and Derivative Works" a) is not about a copy or a derivative work, but about the original and b) reads like a personal essay or something. It's unsourced, added by an IP several months ago (an IP who has never done anything else, apparently), and seems to me like a fairly flagrant violation of WP:OR. I'm inclined to delete the whole section (apart from the first paragraph, which while also not sourced at least relates to the ostensible topic of the section). Thoughts? dcd139 (talk) 14:32, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Yes, trimmed most of it. Johnbod (talk) 15:13, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Article name[edit]

The MET calls it "The Great Wave at Kanagawa" [5] and the BBC is calling it "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" [6]. Is this a British vs. American English issue? I noticed this after an IP tried to change it to "The Great Wave of Kanagawa", which is esentially what other language wikipedia pages are calling it. I am sure this has been discussed? Do we have other sources? Does it matter? Frietjes (talk) 00:43, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

No, no, no, not much. Either "off" or "at" make more sense than "of". But it should be left as it is. Johnbod (talk) 05:17, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

File:The Great Wave off San Francisco.jpg Nominated for Deletion[edit]

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Description of Location is Inconsistent[edit]

In the current version of the article the following appears in the "Boats" section"

"As the name of the piece indicates the boats are in Kanagawa prefecture, with Tokyo to the north, Mt Fuji to the northeast, the bay of Sagami to the south. and the bay of Tokyo to the east. The boats oriented to the southeast, are returning to the capital."

This is an impossible description. Mt. Fuji is west-southwest of Tokyo. Therefore, it is not possible for Mt. Fuji to be "to the northeast", with "Tokyo to the north". If Tokyo is to the north, then Fuji must be to the west or northwest. In any case, if Fuji was to the northeast, the setting would most definitely not be "off Kanagawa". It would be of Shizuoka if Fuji were to the northeast, so "northeast" is definitely wrong. Likewise, if the boats are "oriented to the southeast...returning to the capital", they must be IN Tokyo Bay (possibly returning from other side, the Bōsō Peninsula), rather than having "the bay of Tokyo to the east".

In order to be "off Kanagawa", the boats must be either in Sagami Bay (south of Kanagawa, with Mt Fuji to the northwest) or in Tokyo Bay (east of Kanagawa, with Mt Fuji to the west).

If the dawn is breaking on Fuji, with the sun from behind the observer, then the boats must be off Kanagawa to the east (in Tokyo Bay).

The idea of dawn and the sun behind the observer is noted in the article, just before the "Boats" section:

"The dark color around Fuji seems to indicate that the image takes place early in the morning, with the sun rising from the point of the observer, and illuminating the snowy peak."

If this is the case, then the description of the location should be corrected to be consistent. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:01, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

====I agree. The explanation given by the OP makes no sense. I have sailed these waters many, many times. If you are off "Kanagawa" in Sagami Bay, then Fuji San is to the northwest and Edo (Tokyo) is the to north northeast. The boats are moving to the southeast towards the coast of the Izu peninsula. Because of Fuji San's height above sea level and the reflectivity of snow you do not have to be due east of the mountain to observe a spectacular sun rise. Further confusing the issue, the "Kanagawa" in the title of the print does not refer to Kanagawa Prefecture. Kanagawa Prefecture was established in 1876. Prior to that time, the easternmost part of what is now Kanagawa Prefecture was known as the Province of Musashi. The westernmost part was known as the province of Sagami. The title may refer to an area in Musashi Province near what is now the city of Yokohama. The problem with this is that you do not see waves of this size in the confined waters of Tokyo Bay. You are only going to see them in Sagami Bay which is consistent with the geography in the print. Perhaps Hokusai was exercising artistic license or perhaps he was reinterpreting something he had heard or been told. Or perhaps he chose the name because it was more recognizable than some of the other locations he might have used.Oldbubblehead (talk) 10:57, 30 December 2013 (UTC)

==== I agree the description is wrong. Mt. Fuji is to the west to northwest in any area the vantage point is said to be from.

About the boats, I think the original is wrong also. If Fuji is WNW of the viewer, from the tip of Miura Peninsula, then the boats are heading southwest, toward the left side of the picture. However, I'm not sure this matters. It is common knowledge among boaters that you turn into a large wave; you don't let it hit you broadside. If these waves were repeatedly coming from one direction, then the ships would have turned into them, or perhaps directly away from them in these boats. If this has happened, then we don't know precisely what direction they were traveling in. If they go forward, though, to the left, then they are heading southwest of Tokyo, toward Izu and Shizuoka. Gregconquest (talk) 09:17, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

  • It's highly unlikely that Hokusai was actually out in the middle of the ocean drawing this action shot. Chances are the "location" is fanciful—"artistic licence" and all that ... Curly Turkey (gobble) 09:57, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

File:Great Wave off Kanagawa2.jpg to appear as POTD[edit]

Hello! This is a note to let the editors of this article know that File:Great Wave off Kanagawa2.jpg will be appearing as picture of the day on September 1, 2014. You can view and edit the POTD blurb at Template:POTD/2014-09-01. If this article needs any attention or maintenance, it would be preferable if that could be done before its appearance on the Main Page. Thanks! — Crisco 1492 (talk) 22:28, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
The Great Wave off Kanagawa is an ukiyo-e woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai, published sometime between 1830 and 1833. The first print in his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (the mountain visible in the background), it depicts a large wave threatening boats off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. The series was very popular when it was produced, and it is likely that the original woodblocks printed around 5,000 copies.Print: Hokusai

The image that's going ot be on the main page is an 20th-century Adachi reprint. If it's going to be a reprint, it would've been nice if it were one that showed the clouds in the background more clearly, like what Adachi now has on their website ... Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:41, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
There was a version which ran like that, but it was not exactly restored very well. — Crisco 1492 (talk) 03:23, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
Some notes:
File:The Great Wave off Kanagawa.jpg is the version currently used at Ukiyo-e#Late flowering: flora, fauna, and landscapes (19th century) and elsewhere.
File:Great Wave off Kanagawa2.jpg is currently used at Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and the top of this article and elsewhere.
File:Tsunami by hokusai 19th century.jpg is used further down in this article, and Woodblock printing in Japan and Kanagawa Prefecture
commons:Category:The Great Wave off Kanagawa has quite a few more.
Adachi's current reprint is a lot brighter for the the full height of the sky than any I've seen before; interesting.
See also my request above at #Guide to copies reproductions restrikes originals etc.
HTH. Quiddity (talk) 00:16, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Debussy & Co.?[edit]

Following a helpful suggestion by Curly Turkey at Talk:Ukiyo-e I wished to add in something here about Debussy's La Mer. The appropriate section would presumably be #Non-original copies and derivative works, which I see has already been a matter of discussion here on more than one occasion. On purely editorial grounds, it isn't altogether obvious to me quite how and where Debussy's artistic conception might fit in among the various BBC radio programmes and a trading card. Maybe one for a regular of this page? (talk) 13:45, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

I agree Debussy La Mer is the most significant use of the Great Wave in another art work and it seems odd it is not there when a lots of obscure things are.

Also cover of Mandelbrot's best selling The Beauty of Fractals and a reference to the wave being an early fractal picture — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:52, 3 December 2016 (UTC)

  • It should definitely be in the article. I'd put it in myself, but I've been contemplating re-doing the whole article from scratch, so I'm not much motivated to work on the article in its current state. Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 12:13, 3 December 2016 (UTC)
Funny, I was thinking the same thing Mr Turkey. There's a lot of unnecessary backgound for the reader to wade through before the print is even discussed -- I wouldn't object to some serious pruning. And yes there's a whole lot more we could say about the Great Wave (I don't see the word "telescope" in the article yet for instance). --Hillbillyholiday talk 22:51, 6 January 2017 (UTC)
I've had my eye on the article for some time, and I have a pile of good sources, but haven't motivated myself to do anything about it yet. Probably won't soon, either (assuming I ever get to it), as I have a number of beefy articles on my plate. Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 23:02, 6 January 2017 (UTC)

Image choice[edit]

Comparison of old and new prints
Met version, JP1847
Currently used Featured Picture, Library of Congress Adachi repro,

I think the lead image should be changed. It is currently a modern(ish) reproduction (File:Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg) but close comparison with the JP1847 print (File:Tsunami by hokusai 19th century.jpg) reveals its considerable limitations.

The Met's JP1847 print is an early version, analysis of the line-work shows evidence of the original brushstrokes with their varying thicknesses, a sense of vitality, and some slight mistakes in the carving. The modern repro, while probably more similar in colour to a theoretical "original", is clearly of a much lower quality, with blandly uniform smooth lines and colour-transitions; and check out the simple blobs of the foam. --Hillbillyholiday talk 20:15, 7 January 2017 (UTC)

  • I agree, but if it's going to be switched up, it might be worth hunting around and comparing different copies—it's not a rare print, and there might even be better reproductions than this one. For instance, more recent Adachis are a lot more accurate than the one from the LoC (which the LoC purchased in 1938). Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 22:44, 7 January 2017 (UTC)
That more recent Adachi is slightly better but it still has similar problems, particularly in the lines. The Met's print may or may not be an original, but it is clearly old. It's the best I've come across, and has a number of interesting features (e.g. the foreground boat has been subsequently overpainted). The next best (at least of those versions I've analyzed) is probably the British Museum 2008,3008.1.JA. David Bull spent around a year fastidiously recreating the Wave and explores the links and differences between the Met and BM versions in his long but highly informative video series. They are very similar but he says they are not of the same block, suspecting that the Met is a highly accurate knock-off of the BM; neither may be originals. --Hillbillyholiday talk 23:28, 7 January 2017 (UTC)
Are those videos online? Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 23:49, 7 January 2017 (UTC)
Oh, yeah, they're on YouTube. Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 23:53, 7 January 2017 (UTC)
(ec)Here you go. I explained to a friend earlier how this was simultaneously the most hypnotic and most informative youtube video I'd ever seen, saying "just wait til he gets carving!" and apparently I am now officially middle-aged. After watching the whole set it would be hard to argue that he isn't a "reliable source". If you don't fancy ploughing through the videos, the comparison can be found here and here. --Hillbillyholiday talk 23:55, 7 January 2017 (UTC) Canadian ukiyo-e junky, resident in Japan? Hang on a minute!
I've made prints before, too (though not with woodblocks). Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 01:01, 8 January 2017 (UTC)
The MOA version is very fine. It is very similar to the Met's but without the overpainting and repairs. Unfortunately, the only image I can find online is pretty low-res. (link) --Hillbillyholiday talk 04:18, 10 January 2017 (UTC)
Perhaps try emailing them? The British Museum provides high-res scans on request, maybe the MOA does the same (but doesn't advertise it)? Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 09:50, 10 January 2017 (UTC)
They're a private museum, so I doubt it, but you never know. Unfortunately I can't decipher the details on their website. They might look more favourably upon a request written in Japanese? --Hillbillyholiday talk 10:05, 10 January 2017 (UTC)
Alright, I'll shoot 'em a mail, but I'm suspecting you're right—they don't seem to have any high-res images online at all. Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 10:36, 10 January 2017 (UTC)

"While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is, as the picture's title suggests, more likely to be a large rogue wave."[edit]

The wording suggests a tsunami is still a possibility. My understanding is that it's not, as tsunamis have long wavelengths and don't break. I tried to reword it, but couldn't come up with anything that wasn't ugly. Suggestions? Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 06:50, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is, as the picture's title suggests, more likely to be a large rogue wave.
Hmm. I'm not sure the title suggests a rogue wave. Some consideration of the tsunami aspect may be appropriate but perhaps not in the first para, it is an imaginary wave after all. I'd chop it out or move it for now. --Hillbillyholiday talk 07:01, 9 January 2017 (UTC)
Well, except that it's generally considered (amongst English speakers) to be a tsunami—that should be dispelled right away. What kind of wave it is could be left to the body. And yes, the title suggests nothing about what kind of wave it is. Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 07:21, 9 January 2017 (UTC)
Maybe a mention in the lede, but I still think the first para is too soon. Was going to leave the lede til the rest was nearly complete, but that may be quite some time! How would you structure a four-para intro? 1: Title/dates/etc. 2: Description 3: Style 4: Influence/reception? --Hillbillyholiday talk 07:35, 9 January 2017 (UTC)
The number of paras will depend on the length of the body per WP:LEADLENGTH, so I'd just leave it alone aside from trimming stuff that's more obviously inappropriate until you've got the body settled. Curly "the jerk" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 07:45, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

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