Katsushika Hokusai, 1760–1849
Leading-a-Horse Money
From the series All about Horses, 1822
Color woodblock print (surimono)
Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.200
Cat. no. 159

To celebrate the coming of spring in 1822, Hokusai designed a series of thirty surimono featuring poems from the Yomogawa circle of poets. Because 1822 was the “year of the horse,” the subject of that year’s anthology was the horse. The title Komahiki zeni (Leading-a-Horse Money) refers to souvenir coins minted in the Edo period that pictured, on one side, a person leading a horse. Such coins were believed to possess talismanic power to “lead” other coins into one’s purse. Hokusai depicted komahiki zeni and keys spilling out of a man’s purse. A covered teacup sits on a lacquered saucer decorated with a pattern of plum blossoms, symbolic of spring. Black beans and peppercorns, scattered in the foreground, are used for flavoring fukucha (literally, “lucky tea”), served during the festivities mentioned in one of the poems.

The wind brings the scent of plum blossoms,
ruffling the surface of the lucky tea
flavored with a dried plum.
Although it is still a little cold,
today is the beginning of spring!
–Shōbaitei Kiraku