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Taira no Tadamori (平忠盛) attacking the temple oil priest thought to be a monster -
from the series Mirror of Famous People from Our Country
(Honchō kōmei kagami - 本朝高名鏡)

Identifier: 1830c Kunisada oil thief.jpg

"The story shown here is from book 6 of The Tale of Heike (Heike monogatari) and takes place in the early twelfth century. On a dark, rainy night,the emperor was making a secret visit to one of his lovers, called Lady Gion because she lived in the Gion district of Kyoto. As the emperor's party passed the gate of a shrine, they saw a terrifying apparition: a creature with dozens of glistening bristles coming out of its head, carrying a mysterious shining object. The emperor ordered his bravest guardsman, Tadamori, to kill the demon; but as Tadamori approached the strange figure, he saw that it was only an elderly priest holding an oil dish and a firepot for lamp lighting, who had pulled the tattered remnants of an old straw raincoat over his head to protect himself from the bad weather....

In appreciation of Tadamori's mercy in sparing the old priest, the emperor gave Tadamori the hand of Lady Gion in marriage. Her son, fathered by the emperor but raised by Tadamori, became the great Taira Kiyomori, who was the de facto ruler of Japan from 1159 to 1181."

Quoted from: Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō by Sarah E. Thompson, p. 144. ****

"One night, as Tadamori [1096-1153] sat with the Emperor, they received a report that a monster--a figure with spikes growing out of its head and a flaming mouth--was on the road leading to the temple of Yasaka no Yashiro, and that it had been seen on the road several nights. Fearing a demon, the Emperor ordered Tadamori to find and kill it. Tadamori went in search of the creature, and when he found it, it turned out to be a temple servant who was charged with keeping the oil lamps lit, carryin a jug of oil, wearing a battered straw hat, and carrying a torch, which he had kept alight by periodically blowing on and which had reflected light off of his hat." (Henri Joly, Legend in Japanese Art, p. 507.)


Illustrated in color in The Art of Japan, China and Korea in Russian (Искусство Японии, Китая и Кореи) by Irina Novikova, 2017, p. 315. (They list this print as being in the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, but as of yet it is not illustrated online at their web site.)

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