Art Meets Taboo in the Tradition of Japanese Tattoos
signed Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Yoshitoshi, carver's seal Hori yu, and publisher's date seal Meiji nijuninen, jugatsu, nijuka; Sasaki Toyokichi (Meiji 22 , October 20) of Sasaki Toyokichi
oban tate-e 14 1/2 by 10 in., 36.8 by 25.4 cm
Musashibo Benkei (1155-1189), identified here by his childhood name Oniwaka, observes a giant carp in the pool of Hongu Daijin Temple. Knife in hand, he is preparing to dive into the pool and exact revenge on the fish that ate his mother. Legend has it that he kills the carp, recovers his late mother's remains, and lays her to rest outside the temple walls. Yoshitoshi's teacher Kuniyoshi was particularly fond of this subject, and depicted Oniwaka and the carp in many designs.
In the legends of his childhood, Oniwaka (lit. 'Little Devil') more than lives up to his name. He was kicked out of several temples where he was training to be a priest, but only acquired a priest's robe through larceny when he stole one from Mii Temple. At the age of eight he was told that his father was a guardian statue at Kumano Shrine. Rightfully skeptical of this claim, the Kumano priests suggested that he lift and throw a massive boulder to prove the lineage. To their amazement, he managed the feat, and the boulder he threw is still known as Benkei no nage-iwa ('the rock thrown by Benkei') to this day. Later in life, he would use that strength to great effect as a retainer to the legendary Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-1189), beginning with their first encounter on Kyoto's Gojo Bridge.
Series: New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts
Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art
Publisher: Meiji nijuninen, jugatsu, nijuka; Sasaki Toyokichi
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 104
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 488, no. 509.8
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's Thirty-Six Ghosts, 1983, p. 32, no. 7
Shinichi Segi, Yoshitoshi the Splendid Decadent, 1985, p. 76, no. 94.6
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, p. 89, no. 65.8
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, 2001, p. 44, no. 52
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's Strange Tales, 2005, p. 96, no. 7
Japanese, 1839-1892, Edo, Japan, based in Japan