Katsushika Hokusai
Sunrise at New Years’ Morning
c. 1800

Signed: Hokusai ga; surimono, koban, 13.6 x 18.5 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri and metallic pigments

A young woman standing at a wooden well turns to the rising New Year’s sun. The bucket on the left is decorated with fern, straw and a bitter orange leaf for New Year’s. To the left there are two poems about the first water drawn on New Year’s morning being an omen for good fortune. The well in the picture and the poem may indicate that the print was ordered for the Year of the Boar (1803), since “i” can mean both boar and well in Japanese.

Adolphe Stoclet, Brussels (Sotheby’s, London, June 1966)
Riese Collection #116

The woman shades her eyes from the morning rays of the sun as it rises through the mist on New Year ’s Day. Beside her is a waterbucket decorated with a New Year ornament. A long pole for drawing water stands within the well. The use of the well in the design and the first word in the second poem, suggests that the print may have been designed for the Year of the Boar, 1803, since boar and well are homophonous, both being pronounced I. The poems read:

Kumi somuru
When I began

mizu mo nurite
to draw the water

nanigoto mo
it was wet

todo koborinaki
yet nothing spilled!

miyo no nodokesa.
The calmness of this reign.
(Myōga no Tameshizu (?)

I no hashi no
Beside the well

Kesa wa nodoke ni
this morning, peacefully

Hi no ashi no
the sunlight

Nagashi ni tsutau
glints along the drain,

mizu mo koborazu
no drop of water spills.
(Udenoya Sodenari)