Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Itahana (板鼻): Onzōshi Ushiwakamaru (御曹司牛若丸) from the series Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road (Kisokaidō rokujūkyū tsugi no uchi - 木曾街道六十九次之内)

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Dates: 1852,created
Dimensions: 10.25 in,14.625 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Publsiher: Hayashiya Shōgorō
(Marks 106 - seal 22-049)
Date: 5/1852
Censor seal: Fuku and Muramatsu
Number 15: 十五

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; British Museum; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; Musée Cernuschi;

Physical description:

Ushiwakamaru is doing battle with two large tengu and is getting the best of both of them. Both of these fantastic creatures are trying to shield their faces from threatening blows. One of the tengu has flesh-colored skin, while the one on the bottom is blue-skinned.

When Ushiwakamaru grew up his name was changed to Minamoto Yoshitsune. On the robe of this young warrior is the family crest, the sasarindō. Mark Griffiths in his The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower on page 245 wrote: "The personal, rather than clan mon of Minamoto no Yoritomo was the sasarindō, a design in which three flowers of rindō (the Japanese gentian, Gentiana scabra or G. makinoi) sit above three leaves of the shrubby bamboo Sasa. The gentian was characteristic of the damp grassland flora of Southern Japan, while the bamboo was a signature plant of the North. This elegant posy is iconographic code for the shogun: the North is subjugated by the South; the country united under his military authority."


"On the steep, wooded slopes of Mount Kurama, north of Kyoto, a young boy practices swordsmanship by fencing with tengu, mountain goblins who are half man and half bird. As depicted in Japanese art, tengu typically have wings and either bird beaks or very long noses. These twotengu are clutching their noses in pain because their young sparring partner has whacked them with his wooden sword. The place-name Itahana suggest a pun on 'Ouch' (Itai), 'my nose!' (hana).

This amusing scene is based on a legend about the childhood of one of Japan's greatest heroes, the twelfth-century general Minamoto Yoshitsune, here identified by his childhood name, Ushiwakamaru, and the title Onzōshi, meaning 'younger son of a warrior clan.' When the Minamoto were defeated by the rival Taira clan in 1159, Lady Tokiwa begged the victors to spare the lives of her three young sons by the late Minamoto Yoshitomo... As a result of their mother's pleas, the boys were sent to temples to be raised as Buddhist monks. The youngest, Ushiwakamaru, rebelled against his monastic upbringing fortunes of his clan. Kurama Temple, where he grew up, was located on a mountain said to be a stronghold of the tengu; according to the legend, the magical beings agreed to help the determined young boy by teaching him sword fighting. After learning to fight beings who could fly through the air, Ushiwakamaru could easily defeat mere human opponents despite his small stature.

The inset landscape is in the shape of the magical feather fan of the tengu king. This fan also appeaars in the series title border, together with a hat of the kind worn by the tengu and a tree suggesting the forest setting of the story."

Quoted from: Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō by Sarah E. Thompson, p. 46. There is a full-page colored illustration on p. 47.