With 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa' having reached internet meme status (just try googling it) and ukiyo-e as a whole undergoing something of a renaissance, the time sure appears to be right for the Sumida Hokusai Museum. Devoted entirely to the works of Edo-era darling Katsushika Hokusai, this new shrine to woodblock prints opened on November 22 in Sumida Ward's Ryogoku, not far from the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
Although neighbouring Katsushika is where Hokusai was born in 1760, he allegedly moved around a whopping 93 times in Sumida – where he also died in 1849, having spent most of his life within the city's limits.
The museum building itself was designed by world-renowned architect Kazuyo Sejima and stands out with a modernist facade that's juxtaposed with Hokusai's iconic works, while the collection is composed of art amassed by Sumida Ward along with one of the world's leading Hokusai collectors, the late researcher Peter Morse. The addition of pieces gathered by Muneshige Narasaki, a leading expert on ukiyo-e, tops off the collection, which captures a remarkable variety of prints.
Well then, is it any fun to visit? Sure – we liked how the museum offers details on Hokusai in a smaller exhibition, which includes the 'Sumida River Banks Picture Volume', a set of elusive original drawings that were presumed lost for over 100 years and depict the old Yoshiwara and the Sumida River. You'll also be able to view monographs reconstructed into large scrolls that illustrate the sadly lost 'Susano no Mikoto Yakujin Taijinozu', said to be one of Hokusai's later masterpieces.
On top of this, the permanent collection features high-definition replicas of crowd favourites like the 'Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji' and the 'Hokusai Manga', a detailed, almost scientific collection of sketches depicting everything from animals and plants to architecture and everyday scenes.
There's also a corner for appreciating Hokusai's work while learning about the different scenes and particulars behind them on a touchscreen, plus models of Hokusai's atelier – in short, more than enough to keep you occupied for hours. Keep an eye out for future events such as workshops for adults and children's performances.