HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
Jo and Uba Watching a Crane at Takasago Pine

Jo and Uba are spirits representing longevity and fidelity and are usually shown as an elderly couple and also shown raking pine needles. Interestingly, although Jo (the male) is usually shown with a rake and Uba (the female) is usually with a broom, here the roles are reversed. These spirits of the Takasago pine tree live on Horai, the island of immortality. They are frequently shown with a crane, a turtle, and a rising sun.

Hokusai did a number of surimono (privately commissioned print) and prints relating to the various symbols of longevity and seemed to be particularly intrigued with them. Indeed, in the introduction to his illustrated book, 100 Views of Fuji, Hokusai prays to the god of longevity that he will live past 100 to prove that in his art he will have reached such a level of divine understanding that every line and dot he makes will be alive.


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