Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Ichimura Uzaemon XIII as Onzōshi Ushiwaka (御曹子牛若) fighting with
Nakamura Fukusuke I as Musashibō Benkei ( 武蔵坊弁慶) on Gojō Bridge [五条橋]

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Dates: 1857,created
Dimensions: 19.0 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Sagamiya Tōkichi (Marks 435 - seal 24-009)
Date seal: 4/1857
Censor's seal: aratame

Related links: Waseda University - left panel; Waseda University - right panel; Waseda University - left panel (different information); Hankyu Culture Foundation - ink study for left panel; Hankyu Culture Foundation - ink study for right panel;

Physical description:

The bottom of Ushiwaka's armor is particularly interesting. It shows a wooden fence, next to a torii, with tall mountain pines behind them.

His elaborate hairstyle appears in at least seven other prints in the Lyon Collection. According to one online web site this style is referred to as the tombo or dragonfly, but we have been unable to confirm this as of yet. Another site says that this was the style worn by ancient court pages - both boys and girls. We are checking on this too.

In describing Ushiwakamaru's hair in a painting by Kyōsai Timothy Clark referred to it as "...the almost effeminate 'wheel' plaits of an adolescent youth's hairstyle." (JSV)


Below is a description of this event from The Official Guide-book to Kyoto and the Allied Prefectures from 1895:

It was a bright moonlight night in August when, after long waiting, he [i.e., Benkei] saw coming along the street a (finely dressed young noble who was playing a flute as he sauntered leisurely along. At his side hung a beautiful sword. Benkei, brandishing a long glaive, sprang out and shouted, "Give me that sword." The young noble, afterwards well known at the brave Yoshitsune, replied, ''It Is too precious for me to be willing to part with it. If however you are able to take it, it shall be yours." There commenced a contest between strength on one side and agility on the other. Whenever the giant tried to grasp the stripling or to strike him with the glaive, Yoshitsune would leap like a bird from one side to the other. Jumping upon a wall beside the street, he soon made a sudden flight through the air kicking Benkel's eye in such a way as to blind him. The giant fell to the ground howling for mercy. Yoshitsune, having gained possession of the glaive bent it and threw it back to his assailant telling him to go in peace.

Benkei, though thus defeated, yet longed to get possession of the sword. At last he met Yoshitsune upon the Gojo Bridge. The young noble pursued the same tactics as before. He leaped hither and thither, now before the giant, now behind him, now on the parapet of the bridge, and now flying like a bird before the clumsy giant. At last Yoshitsune with his steel-ribbed fan struck Benkei's hands such a stinging blow as to benumb them, while the giant himself was staggering with fatigue. The youth then leaped upon him threatening him with death unless he would consent to become his victor's retainer. To this demand Benkei assented and henceforth he was Yoshitsune's most faithful servant. He usually carried upon his back seven weapons, -a wooden mallet, a saw, a sickle, an axe. a crowbar, an iron rod, and a glaive.


There is another copy in the Doshisha University Library.