Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) (artist 01/01/1797 – 04/14/1861)

Shimosuwa (下諏訪): Yaegaki-hime (八重垣姫) 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)


10 in x 14.75 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Publisher: Yahataya Sakujirō
(Marks 581 - seal 01-020)
Censor seals: Mera and Watanabe
Date seal: 8/1852
Number 30 (卅)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tokyo Metropolitan Library
Waseda University
British Museum
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Cultural Heritage online - with a Google map showing where this location is
Hiroshige Museum of Art
Musée Cernuschi
Metropolitan Museum of Art

"In one of the most beautiful prints in the series, an elegantly dressed young lady dances with ghostly fox spirits while holding a samurai helmet above her head. She is Yaegaki-hime, heroine of the popular kabuki play Japan's Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety (Honchō nijūshi-kō). The play was originally written for the puppet theater and was first performed in Osaka in 1766; it debuted as a kabuki play in edo in 1776. The story, which takes place on the shores of Lake Suwa, near Shimonosuwa station, is a fictionalized version of the real-life rivalry between the Takeda and Uesugi (here called Nagao) clans during the sixteenth century.

Yaegaki is torn by conflicting loyalties to her father, Nagao Kenshin, and her beloved fiancé, Takeda Katsuyori, who has come in secret to the Nagao mansion to recover an heirloom helmet stolen by Yaegaki's father. In the scene known as the 'Fox Fires in the Inner Garden' ('Okuniwa kitsunebi no ba'), Yaegaki removes the helmet, which is decorated with long white hair, from the shrine in her father's garden where it has been kept. The God of Suwa, who wants the helmet returned to its rightful owners, sends fox spirits as his messengers to help and guide Yaegaki. By following the footsteps of foxes over the ice, she will be able to make a safe crossing over frozen Lake Suwa and deliver the helmet to Katsuyori.

The series title border shows the plants, fence, and stone lantern of the garden setting, while the main image focuses on the dancing figures of Yaegaki and the foxes."

Quoted from: Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō by Sarah E. Thompson, p. 76. There is a full-page colored illustration on p. 77.


There is a huge difference in the inking of the copies in the Lyon Collection and the one at Waseda University. The Lyon Collection one shown here indicates a princess shrouded in darkness. The one in Japan shows her more like she is enveloped by a thick mist. One is more toward the charcoal range of black and the other more toward a moderated gray scale.


There are other copies of this print in the Nakasendo Hiroshige Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden.


Also illustrated in a small black and white reproduction in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints by B. W. Robinson, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1982, p. 153. S74.31. [There appear to be 12 different publishers of the original series. This print in the Lyon Collection appears to be a late edition.]
Yahataya Sakujirō (八幡屋作次郎) (publisher)
Yūrei-zu (幽霊図 - ghosts demons monsters and spirits) (genre)