“Yoshida at Tōkaidō” by Katsushika Hokusai. Part of the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series. Travelers resting at the station watch is a Shinkansen goes by. They, of course, continue their journey on foot.

Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of floating worlds” were woodblock prints that became wildly popular in 17th -19th century Japan. Emerging as a spontaneous artistic development, they remain, to this day, as some of the most well-known imagery and, by extension, some of the most readily available glimpses into what life was like in Japan.


“A sketch of the Mitsui shop in Suruga in Edo” by Katsushika Hokusai. The location is today’s Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi.

But this was before the age of computers, or even hand-drawn animation, so of course each represents a moment, frozen in time. But thawing those images and bringing them to life, sometimes realistically and other times surrealistically, is Japanese animator Atsuki Segawa.

Working with original images of Ukiyo-e,the animator has carefully computerized certain parts, putting them in motion. Some are done humorously, like the travelers watching a modern-day Shinkansen go by. But others are quite sincere. A total of 8 different Ukiyo-e GIFs were created for the purpose of entering into a GIF contest sponsored by Adobe.


Above, “Night Scene in the Yoshiwara” by Katsushika Oei is brought to life. Her interplay of light and shadow, a distinct style rare in woodblock prints, is subtly animated.


A light show over the Sumida River in”Firework Show at Ryogoku” by Kiyochika Kobayashi.


the strong gust of wind can be see in Katsushika Hokusai’s “Ejiri in Suruga Province.” Part of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.