Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, ‘Rustic Genji’, 1885, Scholten Japanese Art
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, ‘Rustic Genji’, 1885, Scholten Japanese Art

signed oju Yoshitoshi ga, with artist's seal Yoshitoshi, publisher's jar-shaped seal of Matsui Eikichi of Kakuhakudo, the print title Inaka Genji, in archaic seal-form at upper right, and dated on the lower left margin, otodoke Meiji juhachinen, hachigatsu, niju ka (delivery Meiji 18 [1885], August 20)

oban tate-e vertical diptych 29 7/8 by 10 1/4 in., 75.8 by 26 cm

Yoshitoshi produced fifteen vertical diptychs from 1885 until 1889 with the publisher Matsui Eikichi who had been a student of Yoshitoshi in ca. 1865 when he was 12 or 13 years old. Eikichi was not a particularly prolific publisher, and sold the blocks of twelve of the designs rather quickly to the larger publisher Hasegawa Tsunejiro. This design is one of only two (the other being that of the Hag of Adachi Moor) that Eikichi did not sell off.

From 1829-1842, the publisher Tsuruya Kiemon began issuing a serialized novel, A Rustic Genji by a Fraudulent Murasaki (Nise Murasaki inaka Genji), which was illustrated by Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III, 1786-1865). The saga was a contemporary adaptation by the writer Ryutei Tanehiko (1783-1842) of the classic 11th-century novel The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). Ryutei's version was set in the fifteenth century, and followed the general theme of the original epic novel, but was written in modern language and embellished with kabuki theatrics. The success of A Rustic Genji, told in thirty-eight chapters which were issued in seventy-six booklets, spurred on a rage in a new genre of woodblock prints: Genji-e (Genji pictures). The titular Prince Genji was reimagined as Mitsuuji, and his tragic lover Yugao was renamed Tasogare.

After the lovers initiate their affair, the pair run off together in the night, but are caught in a sudden rain shower. Mitsuuji uses a section of discarded bamboo blinds to try to protect themselves from the downpour. Seeking shelter at an abandoned temple, they are confronted by the jealous ghost of Akogi, a high-ranking courtesan who had been Mitsuuji's former lover. In a related episode, once inside the temple they are attacked by a ghost-like female demon who is revealed to be Tasogare's mother Shinonome is disguise. Tasogare is so humiliated by the behavior her mother that she commits suicide; her mother, overcome by grief and remorse, does the same.

Publisher: Matsui Eikichi of Kakuhakudo

Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 458, no. 474
Shinichi Segi, Yoshitoshi the Splendid Decadent, 1985, p. 81, no. 50
Akita Museum of Modern Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: The Last Ukiyo-e Artist of Genius, 1999, p. 28, no. 84
Andreas Marks, Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium, 2011, p. 316, no. 553
Andreas Marks, Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2012, p. 153, nos. 144-145
Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: 120th Memorial Retrospective, 2012, p. 129, no. 192
Yuriko Iwakiri, Yoshitoshi, 2014, p. 144, no. 214

About Tsukioka Yoshitoshi