• Sakata Kaidōmaru (坂田怪童丸) struggling with a giant carp under a waterfall
Sakata Kaidōmaru (坂田怪童丸) struggling with a giant carp under a waterfall
Sakata Kaidōmaru (坂田怪童丸) struggling with a giant carp under a waterfall

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

Sakata Kaidōmaru (坂田怪童丸) struggling with a giant carp under a waterfall


ca 1836
10 in x 13.25 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print
Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiemon
(Marks 195 - seal 22-025)
Censor's seal: kiwame
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
British Museum
Rijksmuseum - key-block proof
Smith College
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Brooklyn Museum
Chazen Museum of Art "Naked, red-bodied strong boy Kaidō-maru wrestles under a waterfall with a giant carp. He is known as Kintarō and, as an adult warrior hero, as Sakata no Kintoki... White bubbles of foam dance through the design and a strikingly beautiful film of pale blue water passes over the carp's back. The inscription reads: 'Kaidō-maru had no father and it is said he was born of the old woman of Mt Ashigara after she saw him pass by in a dream with a red dragon. His bravery was without match and he became a follower of [Minamoto no] Yorimitsu, taking the name Sakata no Kintoki. One of the so-called Four Heavenly Kings, his thunderous name resounded in all directions. After many exploits of military valour, he retired back to Mt Ashigara.' A slightly earlier, surimono version of the subject, by Hokkei, dates from the 1820s and appears to be the first example of a newly invented episode involving Kaidō-maru....

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam possesses a key-block proof of the design that once belonged to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In it the bubbles are printed as black dots, so as to ensure that when colour blocks were cut from similar proofs the bubbles would be carved in exactly the correct shapes and positions..."

Qutoed from: Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection by Timothy Clark, p. 61.


"This design has not only been reproduced in numerous books and catalogues, but has itself an interesting publication history. There are differing extant editions: the first has yellow in the cartouches... omitted. In a subsequent third edition, the censor (kiwame) and publisher seals are shown in a white cartouche. The first three editions were issued by Kagaya Kichibei; a fourth and even later editions was published by Ibaya Sensaburō."

Quoted from: Heroes and Ghosts by Robert Schaap, p. 51.


There is another copy of this print in the Museum Rietberg.


Also llustrated:

1) in color in Kuniyoshi by Juzo Suzuki, Heibonsha, Limited Publishers, 1992, no. 220.

2) in color in 歌川国芳展: 生誕200年記念 Utagawa Kuniyoshi: Exhibition to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of his birth, 1996, #33, p. 52.

3) in black and white in Ukiyo-e to Shin hanga: The Art of Japanese Woodblock Prints, Mallard Press, 1990, p. 32. This is also accompanied by a key block print reproduction, also in black and white.

4) in black and white in a full page reproduction in Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Springfield Museum of Art, 1980, #22.

5) in a black and white reproduction in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints by B.W. Robinson, p. 100, S1.d1. Robinson wrote on page 9: "When one looks at, say, 'Kintoki and the carp' (S1d.1) or 'The death of Masayasu' (S62.36), and one tries to work out exactly how the effects of falling water in the one, and in the other the disintegration of a spearman in a volley of musketry, are produced, the technical mastery and inventiveness displayed by these simple craftsmen almost takes one's breath away. How one would have liked to have overheard the discussions between them that must have preceded the production of such prints as these!"

6) in color in Kuniyoshi: Japanese master of imagined worlds by Iwakiri Yuriko with Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 2013, p. 42, pl. 18. These authors note that the name Kaidōmaru "...was frequently employed after his appearance int he 1712 play Komochi Yamauba (Mother mountain witch) by Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724)."

7) In color in Heroes & Ghosts; Japanese prints by Kuniyoshi 1797-1861 by Robert Schaap, #19, p. 51.

They also give the cartouche in the lower left this translation:
Kaidōmaru had no father and it is said the the mountain hag [Yamauba] on Mount Ashigara fell pregnant after she saw a red dragon pass by in a dream. He served Raikō [Minamoto no Yorimitsu] with unrivalled bravery, taking the name 'Sakata [no] Kintoki'. He was one of the 'Four Heavenly Kings' [shittenō], his fame resounding in all directions. After several military exploits he later retired to Mount Ashigara.
8) In color in Japanese Prints : Ukiyo-e in Edo, 1700-1900 by Ellis Tinios, Lund Humphries, 2010, p. 107. The author wrote: "Recent research has revealed that Kuniyoshi based a number of his warrior prints on designs originated several decades earlier by Shuntei and Shun'ei. Here, Kuniyoshi exploited the richer pigments available to him to set off the red body of the boy against the deep blue of the waterfall and the black body of the carp. He also makes masterful use of overprinting and, in a technical tour de force, enlivens the entire surface of the composition with white bubbles."

9) In a small black and white reproduction in the Catalogue of the Collection of Japanese Prints Part IV - Hiroshige and the Utagawa School, Rijksprentkabinet/Rijksmuseum, 1984, no. 217a, p. 124. "This is one of the loveliest representations in printed technique of falling water, where the transparency of the water and the uprising sprays have been very successfully rendered."
Kagaya Kichiemon (加賀屋吉右衛門) (publisher)
warrior prints (musha-e - 武者絵) (genre)
Kintarō (金太郎) (role)