Each design shows a beautiful woodblock print created by Katsushika Hokusai in about 1834.
One design is of a lesser cuckoo on the left and bush warbler on the right. This print can be found in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Inscribed at top left are two lines from a poem by the Southern Song dynasty poet Yang Wanli; ‘A single cuckoo by day splits the mountain bamboo / with an initial cry upon first hearing about Du Yu’.
Du Yu (AD 222–285) was a Chinese general of the Three Kingdoms period. Legend has it a cuckoo cried out at the time of his death.
The other design is of a Mirabilis jalapa and a grosbeak. The grosbeak (a large bird) has a distinctive yellow beak.
A Mirabilis jalapa (also called the four-o’clock flower, or marvel-of-Peru) is a native plant of tropical America. It is thought to have reached Japan via Holland, entering the country through the port of Nagasaki.
This design includes a short verse (hokku) by a female poet named Yudai. It says ‘Four-o’clock flowers / thrive on the far side of fences, / behind the peonies’.