One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: Benkei and the Moon at Daimotsu

Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892)
Historical period(s)
Meiji era, 1886
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 37.3 x 25 cm (14 11/16 x 9 13/16 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, Benkei, boat, Japan, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), moon, night, ocean, wave, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Anne van Biema American, 1915 - 2004


A full moon illuminates this haunting image of the Buddhist priest Benkei, a loyal follower of the warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189), as he stands calmly at the prow of a ship. Benkei holds a rosary in his right hand as he invokes the powers of the Buddhist deities to protect the ship from the deadly storm that arose after Yoshitsune had set off by sea to evade the forces of his half brother, Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199). Above the waves appear the vengeful ghosts of the Taira warriors who had died in the naval Battle of Dannoura (1185) that had ended their five-year war with the rival Minamoto family. Benkei's prayers calmed the ghosts, whose voices could be heard in the wind. Benkei's stillness contrasts with the threatening waves and the shadowy, translucent clouds, which represent better than the ghosts in more literal representations of this scene the intersection between danger and imagination. This story was performed in no dramas, but was first enacted in kabuki in November 1885, an event that may have inspired this design for Yoshitoshi's famous series, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (Tsuki hyakushi).

Published References
  • At the Museums. vol. XLIX, no. 1, 2003. p. 70.
  • Ann Yonemura with contributions by et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 97, pp. 250-251.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum

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