Imperial Bodyguard Watanabe no Tsuna [and the Demon of Rashomon]

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1797-1861)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, ca. 1825
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 38.1 x 25.8 cm (15 x 10 3/16 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Anne van Biema collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Anne van Biema collection, demon, Edo period (1615 - 1868), hero, Japan, theater, ukiyo-e, warrior, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Anne van Biema American, 1915 - 2004


Locked in combat, the warrior Watanabe no Tsuna (953- 1024) raises his sword to cut off the arm of the demon Ibaraki. A black background with swirling patterns represents the darkness of night and enhances the dynamic energy of the struggle. The short text beside the title in the upper corner reads, "Returning to Ichijo, beside the bridge, he cut off the arm of Ibaraki Doji with the sword Higekirimaru." The Higekiri (whisker-cutting) sword had been lent to the hero by Minamoto no Yorimitsu, known as Raiko, leader of the warriors who set out from Kyoto to slay the demon Shuten Doji. According to the story illustrated here, a beautiful woman met Watanabe no Tsuna and requested that he escort her toward her destination. Suddenly transformed into a demon, she seized him by the hair, so he cut off her arm with his sword. Warriors and heroes were a significant subject in Kuniyoshi's work. Both historical stories and legends of supernatural adversaries provide the basis for his brilliantly conceived and popular designs.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura with contributions by et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 69, pp. 190-191.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum