Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Kusatsu (草津): Tawara Tōda (田原藤太) and the Dragon Woman (Ryūjo - 龍女), from the series Fifty-three Pairings for the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui - 東海道五十三対)

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Dates: 1845 - 1846,created
Dimensions: 9.5 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Ebiya Rinnosuke
(Marks 040 - seal not listed)
Nanushi seal: Mura

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hagi Uragami Museum of Art; National Diet Library; Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow; Walters Museum of Art; Freer/Sackler Galleries; Google maps - Lake Biwa;

Physical description:

"The serpent and the centipede – In olden times, when Fujiwara no Hidesato (藤原秀郷), who lived in the first half of the tenth century, crossed the Seta bridge, a big serpent was laying across it. The hero, however, was not at all afraid, and calmly stepped over the monster which at once disappeared into the water and returned in the shape of a beautiful woman. Two thousand years, she said, she had lived under this bridge, but never had she seen such a brave man as he. For this reason she requested him to destroy her enemy, a huge centipede, which had killed her sons and grandsons. Hidesato promised her to do so and, armed with a bow and arrows, awaited the centipede on the bridge. There came from the top of Mikami yama two enormous lights, as big as the light of two hundred torches. These were the centipede’s eyes, and Hidesato sent three arrows in that direction, whereupon the lights were extinguished and the monster died. The dragon woman, filled with joy and gratitude, took the hero with her to the splendid Dragon-palace, where she regaled him with delicious dishes and rewarded him with a piece of silk, a sword, an armour, a temple bell and a bag (tawara) of rice. She said, that there would always be silk left as long as he lived, however much he might cut from it; and the bag of rice would never be empty ‘. As to the temple bell, this was the most precious treasure of the Dragon-palace.” This was the famous bell he gave to the temple at Miidera."

Quoted from Vegder's Blog. (JSV)


There are nine prints from this series, Fifty-three Pairings for the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui - 東海道五十三対), in the Lyon Collection. See also #s 382, 815, 819, 861, 951, 1022, 1095 and 1269.

The curatorial files for the Walters Museum of Art note: "Tawara Toda (Fujiwara Hidesato) on the shore of Lake Biwa with his bow watches the Dragon Princess arise from the water. She is asking him to destroy the giant centipede of Seta."


There is another copy of this print in the National Gallery, Prague and at the Harn Museum at the University of Florida.



1) in color in 原色浮世絵大百科事典 (Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten), vol. 9, p. 18.

2) in color in Kunisada's Tōkaidō: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints by Andreas Marks, p. 107, #T78-53.


The original Tōkaidō was established by the Kamakura bakufu (1192-1333) to run from Kamakura to the imperial capital of Kyoto.