4 Facts About Hokusai, Creator of “The Great Wave”

Learning about the life of the great Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai, who started his most important work at age 70.

Photo: Katsushika Hokusai / Wikipedia

“Fulfilling our mission hinges on having an ever-fresh spirit of challenge. We are all artists—artists painting a masterpiece of human revolution, a vast canvas of happiness and peace for all..”[1]July 17, 1998, World Tribune, p. 4.
—SGI President Ikeda


The Japanese artist, ukiyo-e (wood block print) painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), is best known for his woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the iconic “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” His work “Nakahara in Sagami Province” from the same series appears on this month’s cover. Some interesting facts about the author:

1. Hokusai was known by at least 30 names
during his lifetime.

Although it was a common practice for Japanese artists to use multiple names, his use far exceeded other major Japanese artists of the time. His name changes were so frequent and so often related to changes in his artistic style, that they are used to divide his life into periods.

2. Hokusai commenced his most important
work at age 70.

Although Hokusai was prosperous in middle age, his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji in 1830 eventually brought him international acclaim.

3. His works impacted the Impressionist

During Hokusai’s life, Japan was closed to foreigners. When Japan opened its borders in the 1850s, his work landed in the hands of artists such as Claude Monet, who acquired 23 prints. Edgar Degas also took cues from Hokusai, in particular his thousands of sketches of the human form.

4. He produced 30,000 works in his lifetime.

Hokusai was said to have risen with the sun and painted late into the night. Although a studio fire in 1839 destroyed much of his work, he is said to have produced some 30,000 paintings, sketches, woodblock prints and picture books. His last words were a request for five or 10 more years— “then I could become a real painter.”

Adapted from


1 July 17, 1998, World Tribune, p. 4.