Many artists during Japan’s Edo period designed ukiyo-e woodblock prints, but the works of Utagawa Hirokage stand out from many of these “pictures of the floating world” for their affinity for the absurd. A student of the famed Utagaway Hiroshige, Hirokage is perhaps most known for an incredible triptych of a battle between fruits, vegetables, and fish — but also for a successful series he published around 1860 titled Edo meisho doke zukushi, or Joyful Events in Famous Places in Edo. The 46 images set in present-day Tokyo are simply bizarre: scenes of a tiny octopus attacking people on a beach or of foxes carrying pumpkins are so ridiculous you can’t help but chuckle. Hirokage, in a sense, was churning out the memes of his time.
Honda Kōichi Arabic calligrapher. Born in 1946 in Kanagawa Prefecture. President of the Japan Arabic Calligraphy Association and a professor of international relations at Daitō Bunka University. In 1969, graduated from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, where he studied Arabic. Joined the Pacific Aerial Survey Co. in 1975 and spent the next five years in the Middle East, where he picked up the basics of Arabic calligraphy. Continued to study calligraphy on his own after returning to Japan under the long-distance guidance of Turkish calligrapher Hasan Çelebi, from whom he received his “Ijaza” diploma as a master calligrapher in 2000. Has won numerous awards for his work, starting with the Jury’s Encouragement Prize at the 1990 International Arabic Calligraphy Contest. His published works include Pasupōto shokyū Arabiago jiten (The Passport Beginner’s Arabic Dictionary), Arabiago no nyūmon (An Introduction to Arabic) and Arabia moji o kaite miyō yonde miyō (Try Writing and Reading Arabic), as well as a collection of his calligraphy works titled Arabia shodō no uchū (The Universe of Arabic Calligraphy).