2. He relocated 93 times and changed his name 30 times.
Hokusai was never in one place for long. He found cleaning distasteful—instead, he allowed dirt and grime to build up in his studio until the place became unbearable and then simply moved out. All told, the artist changed residences 93 times throughout his life. Hokusai also had difficulty settling on a single moniker. Although changing one’s name was customary among Japanese artists at this time, Hokusai took the practice even further with a new noms d’artiste roughly each decade. Together with his numerous informal pseudonyms, the printmaker claimed more than 30 names in total. His tombstone bears his final name, Gakyo Rojin Manji, which translates to “Old Man Mad about Painting.”
3. He was a born showman and a savvy self-promoter.
As the story goes, Hokusai was once called before the shogun’s court to demonstrate his artistic talent. In response, he painted a long blue mark on a sheet of paper—then dipped a chicken’s feet in red paint and chased it across the image, creating a clever riff on the traditional motif of maple leaves floating on Japan’s Tatsuta River. Hokusai was also a savvy self-promoter, creating massive paintings in public with the help of his students. At a festival in Edo in 1804, he painted a 180-meter-long portrait of a Buddhist monk using a broom as a brush. Years later, he publicized his best-selling series of sketchbooks with a three-story-high work depicting the founder of Zen Buddhism.