Passport holders in Japan now have a miniature gallery of the works of Hokusai, the country’s most famous traveling painter.

Long ago, back in the days before glossy guidebooks or photo-filled travel websites, it was painters who gave people glimpses of the scenery waiting on the other side of the horizon. One such itinerant artist was Katsushika Hokusai, Japan’s most celebrated ukiyo-e woodblock painter, whose works include the famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, inspired by Hokusai’s travels around Japan with the country’s highest mountain visible in the background of each.

The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji were painted between 1830 and 1832, but this week they’re once again captivating those with a taste for travel as people in Japan receive their new, and absolutely gorgeous, passports.

“I renewed my passport, and the new design is so much cooler than the old one.”

As initially announced in 2016, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has begun issuing redesigned passports with Hokusai’s artwork gracing the visa stamp pages. With the entire Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series actually consisting of 46 paintings, there’s not room for all of them, but the Ministry has selected the best-known and most historically significant, including, naturally, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, arguably the most famous piece of Japanese artwork every produced.

▼ Here we see Ejiri in Suruga Province (corresponding to present-day Shizuoka Prefecture), Mitsui shop in Suruga in Edo (Tokyo), and Nihonbashi in Edo.

Tea house at Koishikawa. The morning after a snowfall (Tokyo)

In total, 24 prints from the series can be found within the pages of the new Japanese passport.

▼ Of the thousands of artists’ depictions of Mt. Fuji, South Wind, Clear Sky (second from left, second from top), also known as “Red Fuji,” is the most iconic.

While the ministry began issuing the new passports earlier this year, they’ve had a resurgence in attention over the past few days, with many applicants receiving theirs ahead of what would, in ordinary circumstances, be the lead-up to a surge in overseas travel from Japan during the summer months.

Unfortunately, with the continuing effects of the coronavirus crisis resulting in many trips being cancelled or at least postponed, it’s probably going to be a while until these new ukiyo-e travel documents get used, but in the meantime Japanese passport holders can take pride in knowing that theirs is not only one of the strongest in the world, but also one of the most beautiful.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Top image: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Images: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s glad that Enoshima is seen in one the prints selected for the new passports.