Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Publisher: Enshūya Matabei (Marks 057 - seal 22-009)
Censor's seal: Mura
Oniwakamaru grew up to be the great Japanese hero Benkei, but before that... His early name meant 'demon child' and he was a bit hard to handle. He was extremely strong and violent. His mother was pregnant with him for three full years. Is it any wonder that he was born with a full head of hair and teeth and was naturally precocious.
At the age of 8 he was asked by the priests of Kaminokura to move a huge boulder. He did it easily. Because of that they took him into their program, but he turned out to be too difficult to handle. "As a result, they [sent] him to a more severe temple to be raised as a priest." Was this the temple at Shoshazan seen here? We'll figure this one out in time.
It was while he was being groomed for the priesthood at the second temple that he had his famous encounter with the giant carp. (See #479 by Sadahide.)
There is another Kuniyoshi print in the Lyon Collection which relates to this one: #1237. It too shows a young Oniwakamaru acting out violently against his 'protectors'.
The fellow near the top of the stairs on the right-hand panel is 廣盛子岩千代丸 also written as 広盛一子岩千代丸. This is Iwachiyo aka Hiromori isshi Iwachiyomaru. He is a character in the bunraku play Kiichi's Book of Strategy, first performed in 1731. Ushiwakamaru is also a character in this play.
This triptych in the Lyon Collection probably has its origin in the scene from this play, 'Mt. Shosha in Banshu Province' (Banshū shoshazan - 播州書写山).