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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Saitō Toshimoto nyūdō Ryūhon (菜籐利基入道立本), number 48 of Heroes of the Great Peace (Taiheiki eiyūden - 太平記英勇傳)

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Dates: 1847 - 1848,created
Dimensions: 9.625 in,14.125 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription: Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
一勇斎国芳画
Artist's seal: kiri
Publisher: Yamamotoya Heikichi (Marks 595 - 04-007)
Censors' seals: Mera and Murata
Number: 48 (四十八)

Related links: Tokyo Metropolitan Library; British Museum; Hagi Uragami Museum of Art; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Lyon Collection - connected historically to the print of Saitō Toshizō;Museum of Fine Arts, Houston;

Physical description:

The Ashmolean Museum says of this print:

Saitō Toshimune, ?-1625, (here Saitō Toshimoto Nyūdō Ryūhon) was a son of Saitō Toshizō as was a brother of the well-known Kasugano Tsubone (1579 – 1643) who became the powerful leader of the ladies’ court. Toshimune was originally a subject of Akechi Mitsuhide and later became a vassal of the Katō Kiyomasa with whom he took part in the Korean Invasions, and of Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632) after Kiyomasa’s death. At a certain battle in Korea, one of the enemies was a huge man, ‘more than two metres tall’ with a ‘tiger-like beard’ whom nobody except Toshimume, also known as a strongman, dared to fight. Wrestling with each other, they fell into deep water. Eventually, Toshimume appeared victoriously on the surface of the water with the head of his enemy, earning high praise from Kiyomasa.

In this print, ‘Toshimoto’ is on top of his enemy fighting the Chinese hero underwater.

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"Saitō Toshimoto Nyūdo Ryūhon... is the son of Saitō Kuranosuke Toshimitsu and a retainer of Katō Kiyomasa (1562-1611). In this work he is depicted in an underwater fight with an opponent during the first Korean campaign (1592). This print, which is numbered 48, is one of the more spectacular scenes in the Taiheiki series. A similar underwater fight was designed by Kuniyoshi for his famous Suikoden series of c. 1827-30 and Kuniyoshi's student Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-92) also illustrated the subject on a number of occasions."

Quoted from: Heroes and Ghosts: Japanese Prints by Kuniyoshi 1797-1861 by Robert Schaap, p. 93.

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Yoshitoshi, Kuniyoshi's pupil, produced a print of this same subject, but with several changes. The Yoshitoshi print omits the text seen here written by Ryūkatei Tanekazu (1807-1858). It describes the underwater battle between Toshimune, the true name of the historical hero seen in this print, and a Goliath-like Korean warrior. "...over 2m tall... exceptionally strong and had a fine moustache resembling horns. As the fight escalates, they tumble into a nearby moat undeterred in their struggle. Toshimune [here Toshimoto] eventually emerges victorious with the decapitated head of his enemy in hand."

Quoted from: Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, p. 74.

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Also illustrated:

1) in a small black and white reproduction in The World of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Tsukioka Yoshitoshi no Sekai - 月岡芳年の世界) by Susugu Yoshida, p. 30.

2) in a full-page color reproduction in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints by B. W. Robinson, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1982, p. 25. S62.31.

3) in a full-page color reproduction in Heroes of the grand pacification: Kuniyoshi's Taiheiki eiyūden by Elena Varshavskaya, Hotei Publishing, 2005, p. 155.

The text on the print appears on page 154:

[Saitō Toshimoto nyūdō Ryūhon] became a meritorious retainer of Fujiwara Masakiyo... originally he was a brave vassal of Michihide... His military fame resounded in many a province. [Saitō Toshimoto] was Saitō Kuranosuke's... heir. After his lord together with his father had perished he entered Masakiyo's service. [Saitō Toshimoto] was the first in the battles on Shikoku... and in the fights on Kyūshū... and also in [the wars] in various provinces. Words fail to describe his military exploits. During the campaign in the foreign country (Korea) he crossed the sea and together with the commanding general Masakiyo penetrated into the distant land of Orangai... There, while capturing various castles, they came across one stoutly resisting fortress. Amongst those holding this fortress was a foe of over eight shaku in height... His bristly moustache was like growing thorns, in his hands he was holding a spear and he advanced in the lead every time. His physical strength was incredible. He harassed [the Japanese] army in the extreme. Ryūhon long since intended to kill this man. One day in a battle they happened to meet unexpectedly and began to fight displaying all their bravery, and there seemed to be no end to the engagement. Then it turned into a scrimmage, and drawing one another down, they rolled right into the moat. They both were mighty warriors like a dragon and a tiger... so for a while they struggled at the bottom under water and finally Ryūhon took his [enemy's] head. With heroic looks he came out of the water. What a monstrous countenance the enemy had! Masakiyo commended Ryūhon's valour and admired him and praised him incessantly.

The term nyudō in this figures name "...means literally 'the one who has taken the path' and was applied to people who had vowed abidance by the rules of Buddhist monks, but continued to live at home." (Ibid., end note 4.1, p. 162)

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There is another copy of this print in the Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale.