Gateway to the Sun

Original story ( by Christopher Jenkins (2015-07-14)

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has been a champion of Japanese art, since long before anime and manga crept into our culture. It also has a real Japanese Garden Tenshin-en, “The Garden of the Heart of Heaven,” that is open in season with its cherry blossom trees. When I say “real” I mean it was designed along the principles set out for such gardens in the Sakuteiki and the like, and, in fact, by a Japanese Professor. This is as opposed to others I’ve seen, say in Pasadena, that seemed to have no grounding in the traditional art, and from which meaning was absent.

The Museum just finished an exhibit of photographs by Japanese artists that were of the aftermath, or influenced by, the tsunami of 3/11. Through August 9th, they will still have the Hokusai exhibit, which showcases the works of Katsushika Hokusai including pieces from the “36 Views of Mount Fuji” woodblock print series.

Lost and Found (From the 3/11 Exibit)

The most famous print from this series is “Under the Wave Off Kanagawa” — “I was under the waves before love rescued me” (When Love Comes to Town) is the echo there. Like the other prints in the series, Mount Fuji and its volcanic presence is somewhere in the print. The summit of Mount Fuji is considered sacred, and this is like a “visible” spiritual omnipresence, that you might find relatable to U2’s Invisible. You may also recognize the wave, which is evoked in the on-screen “tsunami” [ i] animation during “Until the End of the World.”

Wave and Confetti

Animating Hokusai’s wave has been attempted several times. Here’s one animation I favor as an example: U2’s version[ii] brings a power and a sensation that is leagues beyond what has come before, with the rising water, the Hawaii-like surf breaking behind the animation, as the material world of Cedarwood Road is washed away. Even viewing it from a distance, it is magnetic, and it becomes a tank I’m trapped in, filling to the top and I can feel the air leaving my lungs as I draw in what feels like it will be my futile final breath.

Of course, Bono and Edge are inside that fish tank at that moment, and I have to wonder how it feels from inside.

Bono and Edge in the Tank

The sequence starts with Bono confronting Edge just prior to the lightbulb and bullet appearing from opposite ends of the screen.

Edge and Stars

Collision Course

Bono takes a swing at the lightbulb at the same time as the bullet hits and shatters the bulb.

Backswing Pre-Impact

Bono Swing at Impact

Bulb Socket Liquid Glass

The glass transforms into water, and the home from 10 Cedarwood Road emerges as the Hokusai–like waves arrive. This ending is “Death by Water” rather than “The Fire Sermon” (or should I say “fire… consume you”) to draw in the T.S. Eliot for a moment, and I can’t help but feel the ateji connotations of the invisible Fuji-san [iii] washed away as would be fitting in Bullet, but we’ll save that for a future article… Going through the exhibit a few of the other prints strike me as similar to the tsunami, particularly those with people or objects in the water. Maybe there is a tinge of maleness to the presentation, so Masculine Waves is of interest.

Couch Wave

Dual Wave

Phone Booth

Adam Ponders a Bicycle

Hammer and Car

Tree Wave


Consider also the rising water in Ocean waves, the rolling waves of The Fuji from Kanaya on the Tokaido or the waves beneath the fisherman in Kajikazawa in Kai Province. There are also the women of Ono-No-Takamura. Of course we are talking about boats and people in the Hokusai prints, and things like couches, trees, cars,bikes, houses, a hammer, a beer bottle for drowning sorrows before they learn to swim, Guggi [pictures above] – I won’t try and document it all, but you can help us do so if you wish. And is that Bono on top of his house, gone? drowned? had enough? (sorry, Pete Townshend will appreciate that).

House Surfing

House on Waves

Splash as House Sinks

I’m not really sure, but the world is going under.

The World

And we lose the cherry blossom tree, our connection to the others and the outside world in Cedarwood Road, looking not unlike the one in Goten-yama hill, Shinagawa on the Tokaido, full of symbolism in its predicament.

Cherry Blossom Tree

Cherry blossoms are symbols of the soul, of the transience of life, of sacrifice, and of peace & friendship in part due to the Treaty of Portsmouth signed in Portsmouth, NH, an hour outside of Boston. I hope some fans take the time to visit the MFA and explore the art while in Boston, including the Hokusai exhibit.

The screen captures here are from recent videos by Keith Jensen ( and a few from squintyt4e ( – thank you for posting them. Now it is time for reflection…

Copyright Christopher Jenkins 2015.

[ i] Some fans also refer to this as “The Flood” – “symbols clash” or they make for broader and deeper art.

[ii]See the tour program for the credits.

[iii]See and – notice that Fuji’s last major eruption was a few decades prior to Horusai’sbirth, and thus it’s more volcanic appearance in some of the prints.

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