Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Izumo no Imaro (出雲伊麿) stabs a wani (sea-monster - 鰐)

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Dates: circa 1834 - 1835,created
Dimensions: 9.25 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Cersor's seal: kiwame

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Kuniyoshi Project; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; Muzeum Sztuki i Techniki Japońskiej Manggha, Krakow;

Physical description:

One day a young woman was walking along the seashore when she was suddenly attacked by a particularly ferocious wani. This was said to happen on the 13th day of the 7th month of the 7th year of the emperor Tenmu or 674. Imaro buried what was left of his daughter on the shore where he screamed and stomped railing at the gods in the heavens. This is what he did for quite a while, until he collapsed in exhaustion. After that he sharpened his arrows and honed his dagger. He was determined to kill the wani that killed her.

He prayed to all of the gods, the gods of the heavens, the gods of the earth and the gods of the seas to help him get his vengeance. While imploring the gods to help and protect him a large group of 100 wani began swimming toward him, including the guilty monster. They circled Imaro in tighter and tighter circles until at last he was able to fight with and slay that one particular wani he sought to kill. When that happened all of the other wani disappeared.

After killing the wani he began to cut it to pieces when he found his daughter's leg. This confirmed that he got the right culprit.

The source of this story is from the Izumo Fudoki (出雲風土記), one of the oldest extant written records in Japan. "The original manuscript of the Izumo Fudoki is lost. The oldest manuscript is from the end of the sixteenth century."


In the Izumo Fudoki the exact definition of the term wani (和爾 or 和邇) is not clear. Some sources believe it is meant to be a small shark. In 1998 Akira Asayama spent twenty pages trying to figure it out and finally settled on 'sea-monster'.


Izumo no Imaro in mid-sea plunges his sword into the neck of a sea-monster which is about to take him in it's jaws. A very rare design with gauffrage and hand-applied gofun. Robinson: S1c.9.


This print is trimmed considerably. There is no publisher's mark visible, but it was probably produced by Yamaguchiya Tōbei (Marks 591). All of the copies we have seen are cropped awkwardly to some degree at the upper right with the title cartouche.


One Japanese language web site noted on how hairy Izumo no Imaro's body is. We agree.


Illustrated in color in Kuniyoshi: Japanese master of imagined worlds by Iwakiri Yuriko with Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 2013, p. 41, pl. 17.