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

An Old Picture of an Up-to-Date Teruuji at the Old Temple (Imayō Teruuji kodera no kozu - 今様輝氏古寺之古図) A Rustic Genji theme


31 in x 15 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri in red
Publisher: Sawaya Kōkichi (Marks 460 seal 16-109)
Censors' seals: Kinugasa and Watanabe
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
British Museum
Waseda University - right panel only
Sekisui Museum
Hagi Uragami Museum of Art - right panel
Hagi Uragami Museum of Art - center panel
Hagi Uragami Museum of Art - left panel
National Museums of Scotland right panel
National Museums of Scotland - center panel
National Museums of Scotland - left panel
Lyon Collection - Kunisada triptych on the same theme
Lyon Collection - tetraptych by Sadanobu showing Shinonome with a demon mask
Bibliothèque nationale de France - three separate prints in an album, #'s 3, 4 and 5

"The setting is an abandoned temple on a lonely moonlit moor. Teruuji, standing in the centre, offers a hand towel to his lover Tasogare, who kneels on the ruined veranda wiping her feet with a cloth. From the next room they are spied on by a mysterious female figure dressed in an elaborate costume of a Nō drama, wielding a red and white stage 'wand' in one hand and gripping the cords of a she-devil (Hannya) mask in her teeth. She is Shinonome, Tasogare's mother, who has stolen an heirloom sword that Teruuji is searching for. In the next scene, wearing the she-devil mask, she will attack the lovers and threaten Tasogare with the sword. The design is a tour de force of cutting and printing, particularly in the way it captures the effect of the painting peeling from the sliding panels that separate two rooms."

Quoted from: Kuniyoshi From the Arthur R. Miller Collection by Timothy Clark, p. 236. Illustrated in color on pp. 236-7.

This triptych does not represent any actual scene from the Teruuji-based novels or plays which were themselves take offs on the early Mitsuuji, Rustic Genji novels which were very loosely related to the original classic The Tale of Genji.


"The scene is probably taken from act 8 of Higashiyama sakura sōshi. The setting is a dilapidated temple where Mitsuuji and his lover, Tasogare, have taken shelter. They are surprised by the sudden appearance of Shinonome, Tasogare's mother, whose family was exterminated by the Ashikaga clan. She confesses to stealing the sword known as Kogarasumaru, the missing Ashikaga heirloom for which Mitsuuji has been searching, and approaches Mitsuuji, intending to murder him."

Quoted from Sebastian Izzard's Kunisada's World.


Use the enlargement tool so you won't miss seeing the carved wooden fish, a mokugyo, hanging from the rafters at the top of the left panel near the full moon. Also, enlarge the figure on the right who is holding a mask of a female demon. There is tetraptych by Sadanobu in the Lyon Collection which shows a figure of Shinonome holding a similar mask. (See the link above.)

Look closely at the symbolism of the tattered screen

Bryan Fijalkovich in his master's thesis pointed out the symbolism of the wheel of the cart on the ragged screen in the Rustic Genji. In Chapter 5 he notes: "Shinonome makes Buddhist references that sound as if paraphrased directly from the play Aoi no ue, such as: “Retribution in this world is like the revolving wheel of the small oxcart.” The script of the play Aoi no ue contains similar statements: “Like the wheels of an ox-drawn carriage the wretched world goes round and round in retribution.” Both refer to the Buddhist cycle of rebirth. The statements above are echoed by the depiction of a carriage wheel on the screen behind Mitsuuji and Shinonome." (JSV)


The tattered screen of the painting of the cart is a direct reference to Chapter Nine of the Tale of Genji

There is a famous scene in the Tale of Genji where everyone gathers to see a procession to the Kamo Shrine. Ladies in particular want to see Genji as he passes. Among these women is one who wants to keep a particularly low profile, the Lady Rokujō. She had had a romantic tryst with Genji in one of the early chapters, but has been all but ignored since. Now she feels jealous and resentful.

In this representation of the Rustic Genji Lady Rokujō is represented by the evil Shinonome on the right. The Genji substitute is in the middle with his current lover, here represented by Tasogare, kneeling on the left. The tattered painting on the screen behind them shows the cart. Is this meant to be Lady Rokujō's cart? Most probably. The references and the symbolism is clear.


Illustrated in a small black and white reproduction in Essays on Japanese Art Presented to Jack Hillier in an essay by Eiko Kondo, 'Inaka Genji Series', pl. 12, fig. 12, p. 84.
Sawaya Kōkichi (沢屋幸吉) (publisher)
Genji related prints (Genji-e - 源氏絵) (genre)