The Demon Omatsu Killing Shirosaburo

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi


New Selection of Eastern Brocade Pictures: Picture of the Demon Omatsu Killing Shirosaburo (Shinsen axuma nishiki-e: Kishin Omatsu Shirosaburo o korosu zu)

Originating from a 14th-century legend, the samurai Shirosaburo suffers treachery at the hands of the beauty Kishin (lit. devil') Omatsu who he carries on his back across a swiftly flowing river. Shirosaburo is based on the historical warrior Omori Hikoshichi, an officer in the service of Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358) who following their victory in the 1336 Battle of Minatogawa is said to have nearly been assassinated while carrying the daughter of the defeated warrior Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336) across a river.

Following adaptions in Noh theater, Omori Hikoshichi's tale found its way to kabuki through the character Shirosaburo. Though the adaptations are many and varied, the image of a woman attacking the samurai who carries her across the water is a consistent one. In some plays she is the daughter of Masashige, in others she is Shirosaburo's deceased wife who he had murdered while she was disguised as a highwayman, while in yet another version she is a demon looking for a lost sword. Though we cannot say with certainty which adaptation Yoshitoshi chose to depict here, her identification as kishin in the title suggests she is a demon or a spirit, perhaps from a version featuring the vengeful ghost of Shirosaburo's late wife


Condition: Print color saturation and overall condition is very good. Margins as shown. Print is not backed.

Size: Oban tate-e diptych 14 5/8 by 20 1/8 in., 37.3 by 51.2 cm

Carver: Enkatsu

Publisher's date and address seal Meiji jukyunen, sangatsu, nijunika; [Tokyo Nihonbashi] Bakurocho Nichome 14-banchi, shuppanjin Tsunashima Kamekichi (Meiji 19 [1886], March 22) of Tsujiokaya Kamekichi of Kinkido and Tosendo