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Chikanobu Yoshu, Japanese, (1838–1912)
Eastern Brocades: No. 4 Lady Tamamo, 01/09/1886
Ink on Paper
13 3/16 in. x 9 3/16 in. (334.96 mm x 233.36 mm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Ballard
Accession Number: 93.6.20

Alternate Title: Azuma nishiki chuya kurabe: Tamamo no mae

There are tales of wicked foxes in Japanese folklore, many of which derive from Chinese legends of fox spirits with the powers to shapeshift, possess and bewitch humans. One 14th-century Japanese legend tells of Tamamo no Mae, or Lady Tamamo, a fox spirit who became a favorite courtesan of Emperor Toba (1103-1156) and used her powers to make the Emperor ill. She was later exposed by the Emperor’s astrologer as a fox spirit and was hunted down in her fox form on the plains of Nasu, shown above. The fox here is the nine-tailed fox or kyūbi no kitsune, a particularly ancient and dangerous shapeshifting fox spirit from Chinese mythology. In the popular manga and anime series Naruto, the powerful nine-tailed fox demon Kurama is sealed into the main character Naruto Uzumaki (whirlpool) and tries to cause harm but is overpowered by Naruto’s goodness.

- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021


Back to back print with 93.6.21. No. 4. Title can be read "Azumae chuya kurabe," however, treat this as one of the "Azumanishiki chuya kurabe" series.

Signed: “Yoshu Chikanobu hitsu” with red toshidama seal

Colored ink on paper; wood-block print.

Object Description
According to legend, in the early 12th century a mysterious lady-in-waiting attracted the attention of Emperor Toba (reigned 1107-1123). She was wise and beautiful, but when Lady Tamamo became the imperial concubine, Toba became progressively sick. When the astrologer Abe no Yasunari discovered she was actually an evil nine-tailed white fox, Lady Tamamo disappeared in a burst of light, reappearing later in the Nasuno Plain of the Kanto area where she was killed by imperial soldiers. This story was the basis for several puppet and kabuki plays.

Inset: The white fox being hunted.

For more information, please refer to the Chikanobu exhibition catalogue.

Kobayashi Testujiro

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