Nitan Shirō (Tadatsune) hunting a wild boar in Yoritomo's hunting party near Mount Fuji

Yashima Gakutei (八島岳亭) (artist 1786 – 1868)

Nitan Shirō (Tadatsune) hunting a wild boar in Yoritomo's hunting party near Mount Fuji


10.75 in x 7.25 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Gakutei Sadaoka ga
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - 19th c. tsuba showing same encounter

There are a number of stories related to the vendetta of the Soga brothers against Suketune, the man responsible for the death of their father. This print by Gakutei illustrates one of those peripheral tales.

Yoritomo and his men, including Suketune, have gone to the foot of Mt. Fuji on a hunting expedition - where the Soga brothers are about to make their move. "During the... expedition, a monstrous boar, roused by beaters, killed some of its tormentors, threw others to the ground and then charged Yoritomo. Without the slightest hesitation, Nitan no Shirō placed himself directly in the beast's path, leapt on its back, and killed it with his dirk.

The dexterity and bravery of the warrior's extraordinary feat is perfectly captured by Gakutei, who chose to represent the moment when Shirō, astride the enormous beast, is just about to slay it. The contrast between the hapless retainers and the confident hero is clearly done. The device of representing the action as if taking place on a six-fold screen emphasizes that this surimono is a New Year's card, in all likelihood for the Year of the Boar, 1827. There are two kyōka on this surimono, each a collaborative work between two poets and each devoted to particular locations associated with Mount Fuji. The first poem makes abstruse comparisons between places on Mount Fuji and parts of the human body. The second poem reads:

tsuwamono no
Fuji no Shibayama
keburite kasumu
haru no hi o

The warrior goes
to Shibayama on Mount Fuji.
There is snow.
It makes the spring sun
hazy and smokey.


Source and quote from: Japanese Warrior Prints 1646-1905 by James King and Yuriko Iwakiri, p. 218. Illustrated in color on the next page.


"In 1193, when the great warrior Yoritomo gave a hunting party at the foot of Mount Fuji, a boar suddenly broke cover and,wounded and maddened, headed straight at the hunters, too fast to be hit with their arrows. In an instant the warrior Nitan-no-Shiro Yadatsune sprang from Yoritomo's bodyguard and, casting aside his bow and arrows, and leaping on his horse, he made straight for the boar, which turned to attack him. Like a flash Nitan leaped on the back of the beast, with his own back to the animal's head. Grasping the tail, Nitan clung to the speeding animal until he found a chance to draw his dagger and stab him to death. Thereupon, so it is said, he received an ovation "so great as to shake the surrounding hills." "

Quoted from: The Asian Animal Zodiac by Ruth Q. Sun.


In the middle ground is the military camp of Yoritomo with its jinmaku (陣幕) or curtain with his personal clan motif, the sasarindō.

"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. The Heike clan took swallowtail butterfly as their badge, suitably flamboyant and fugacious for the high-rolling tribe routed by Yoritomo's Genji."

Quoted from: The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower by Mark Griffiths, p. 245.
surimono - 摺物 (genre)
Historical - Social - Ephemera (genre)
Soga brothers (曾我兄弟) (genre)
Mount Fuji (富士山) (genre)
Jūnishi (十二支 - 12 signs of the Zodiac) (genre)