Nitta Tadatsune Seeing a Ghost in a Cave, 1890
Ink on Paper
14 9/16 in. x 9 7/8 in. (369.89 mm x 250.83 mm)
Note: XXI (p.60-61) of "Yoshitoshi's Thirty-six Ghosts."
Fudo Myoo and Yuten Shonin: In 1656 the Buddhist acolyte Yuten had a vision in which the statue of Fudo (the great immovable one) came alive and threatened him with a sword. When Yuten awoke, the statue's sword was on the ground. Yuten later became abbot of this temple and creidts Fudo with his spiritual awakening.
On mat, in pencil: Marer 436, Thirty-six Ghost Stories. Artist's seal: Yoshitoshi. Signed: Yoshitoshi. Carver: Hori Yu.
Colored ink woodblock on paper; oban.
Meiji period Japanese color woodblock print with an image of a view from above of a man in a cave, holding a torch.
Minamoto no Yoritomo consolidated his power after the destruction of the Taira clan, establishing himself as shogun in Kamakura in 1192. The following May he invited the great feudal lords to a celebratory hunting party on the slopes of Mount Fuji. On the third day of the party an unusually large boar, wounded and mad with pain, burst through the clouds and headed straight for the new shogun. A young samurai jumped from his horse onto the wild boar's back; riding it backwards, he managed to kill it with his short sword. The samurai was Nitta Tadatsune, more commonly known as Nitta no Shiro, and for his quick thinking and courage Yoritomo gave him an estate of 150 acres.
Two days later Nitta went walking with some friends. They discovered a mysterious tunnel in the side of Mount Fuji. Following it, they came to a large cavern. There the goddess of mercy, Kannon, one of the most popular Buddhist deities in Japan, appeared to them in a blinding vision. His companions were terror-stricken and prostrated themselves in fear. Nitta maintained his composure and conversed at length with the goddess, who congratulated him on his recent act of courage.
This is not the most striking design of the series, but it does illustrate Yoshitoshi's skillful draftsmanship. He enjoyed showing the human form from an unusual angle: here we look downward at the determined young man as he pushes his way through the bowels of the mountain. Bats flap overhead. On [early impressions] of the design an oxidizing pigment [had] been used for the flames of Nitta's torch [turning the red into grey]. [Later impressions, such as the one here], using a cheaper, nonoxidizing dye are surprisingly more effective, as the design requiress the red of the flames to bring it to life.
Mount Fuji has always been considered female, thus it is appropriate that Buddhism's greatest female deity appeared to Nitta inside the mountain. A male mountain, Mount Haku, formerly towered beside Fuji. The buddha Amida was asked to decide which peak was higher. He ran a pipe from the top of Haku to the top of Fuji. Water poured into the pipe flowed down onto Fuji's head, proving she was lower. Fuji was infuriated and hit Haku on the head so hard that his skull shattered into eight pieces. Now Mount Haku has eight peaks, all of them lower than Fuji.
(John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's Thirty-Six Ghosts, New York: Weatherhill, 1983.)
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