Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Fight to the Death of Heroic Samurai of the Kusunoki Clan at Shijō-nawate (Kusunoki-ke yushi Shijō-nawate nite uchijini - 楠家勇士四條縄手にて討死)

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Dates: 1851,created
Dimensions: 9.75 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Fujiokaya Keijirō (Marks 063 - seal 21-026)
Censors' seals: Mera and Watanabe

Related links: British Museum; Google maps - Shijōnawate Ward near Osaka - highlighted in red; Victoria and Albert Museum; Rhode Island School of Design; Lyon Collection - the other, right-hand, triptych by Kuniyoshi published four months earlier ;

Physical description:

'Nanke yushi Shijo-nawate nite uchijine'. The Last Stand of the Kusunoke at Shijo-nawate. Masahara, Masatomo, Katahide in hail of arrows; with corpse, standard, two severed heads. Said to be Kuniyoshi's most celebrated battle triptych. [This is from information provided by the seller.]


"According to the Taihei-ki (Chronicle of th Great Peace). on 5th January, 1348, during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, General Kusunoki Masatsura led 3,000 troops from the Southrn Court in battle against 60,000 Northern Court soldiers at Shijō-nawate in Kawachi Province. Vastly outnumbered, the Southern Court had no chance of winning, and in the end Mastsura and his brother Masatoki killed each other while their soldiers fought to the death." Quoted from the English Supplement Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections 5, Victoria and Albert II, pp. 3-4.

The center panel is illustrated in black and white in Japanese Colour Prints by Laurence Binyon and J.J. O'Brien Sexton, 1923, plate XLV.


In the year before this battle 500 enemy soldiers were about to attack Kusunoki Masatsura when the bridge they were crossing collapsed and they all fell into the cold waters. Masatsura took pity on them. He rescued them, treated those who were injured in the fall, gave them all warm clothes and medicine. It had been a certainty that these men would have all died in the frigid waters if they had not been fished out. "After allowing the men rest for four or five days, Masatsura provides horses, armor, and helmets to those who need them. Although enemies, the men are so moved that they ask to become Masatsura's followers. Intent only upon repaying the obligation to him, all five hundred die with Masatsura at the Battle of Shijō Nawate the next year."

Quoted from: Warriors of Japan as Portrayed in the War Tales by Paul Valery, p. 206.

"Shijō Nawate is a ferocious battle that rages from morning until night on 1348:1:5. Taiheiki describes the division of forces on both sides into subunits — comprising both cavalry and foot soldiers — that charge and clash, charge and clash, in a series of encounters over a broad battlefield. Although the Kō army is superior in numbers, Masatsura and his force, having selected the site for the battle, are able to take good advantage of the terrain. The outstanding feature of the Taiheiki description of the battle is Masatsura's single-minded determination to fulfill his pledge to take the heads of Kō no Moronao and Moroyasu — or, specifically, Moronao, since Moroyasu remains mostly on the periphery of the battle and thus out of reach."

Ibid., p. 207.


This example is the left-hand set of two triptych by Kuniyoshi, published four months apart. This is the later one. See the link above for the other triptych.


Also illustrated:

1) in color in Masterpieces of Japanese Prints: The European Collections - Ukiyo-e from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kodansha International, 1991, pp. 112-113.

2) in color in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collection 5: Victoria and Albert Museum II, Kodansha, 1989, #40.

3) in a large, full, two-page, color reproduction in Japanese Prints by Catherine David, 2010, Éditions Place des Victoires, pp. 412-413.

4) in black and white in Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Springfield Museum of Art, 1980, #179.

5) in small black and white reproductions in the Illustrated Catalogues of Tokyo National Museum: Ukiyo-e Prints (3), #3105-07.

6) in a large black and white reproduction in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints by B. W. Robinson, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1982, pl. 59. T271.