YOSHITOSHI TSUKIOKA: Yoshitoshi Manga (1885-1887)

Urashima Taro Returning fron the Dragon King's Palace
Urashima Taro Returning fron the Dragon King's Palace
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Urashima Taro rescued a young sea turtle from tormenting boys. The next morning, a large sea turtle carried him to the Dragon Palace as a reward for his kindness. There, he met Otohime, princess of the Dragon Palace, who treated him to a banquet, a hot bath, and a soft, warm bed. Daily, he was entertained in a magical garden, where the trees blossomed, leafed, and fruited every day.

But Taro missed his home. Despite the Princess's entreaties, he determined to return. When she consented to his departure, she gave him a jewel box, bound with red cord, with strict instructions that he should look upon it to remember her, but never, ever open it.

When Taro arrived at his village, he could not find his hut. He asked an old woman if she knew where the home of Urashima Taro was. She recalled a story passed down from her grandmother's grandmother, about an Urashima Taro, who disappeared from the village 300 years before.

Desolate, Taro remembered Otohime's generousity, and opened the box, looking for a gift that could help him. Inside was only a cold mist that smelled like the mat in Taro's hut, storm winds, fish, and cheap wine.

The box held all the time that Taro had lost, and as he breathed it in, he aged rapidly and died.

The Greedy Old Woman Leaves the Sparrows
The Greedy Old Woman Leaves the Sparrows
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One day, an old man found an injured sparrow and brought it home to care for. The old woman next door became jealous of the sparrow, so, one day when the man was away, she cut its tongue and chased it away, injured again, to die in the wild.

When the man came home, he searched everywhere for the sparrow, eventually going into the deep woods. There, he came to the Kingdom of the Sparrows, where his sparrow was king. He was warmly greeted, fed and entertained. Before he went home, he was offerred the choice of three gift boxes. Since, he said, he was old, he could not carry much, and chose the smallest box. When he opened it at home, it was full of gold.

When the old woman saw this, she, too, set off for the Kingdom of the Sparrows. There, the sparrows offerred her hospitality, but she demanded her box right away. Given the choice, she chose the largest box. When she opened it, all the demons and deseases of the world were released.

Ariwara no Yukihira and the two brinewomen, Murasame and Matsukaze
Ariwara no Yukihira and the two brinewomen, Murasame and Matsukaze
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Ariwara no Yukihira (818?-893?) was a courtier and poet, who incurred the wrath of the powerful Fujiwara clan and was exiled to Suma Island. There he met two sisters, Murasame and Matsukaze, who collected brine and seaweed to be reduced to salt. The story of their love for Ariwara became popular in a Noh play, and in kabuki. When he was recalled after three years, he left them a parting gift of his court robe and hat. It was said that their spirits waited on the beach of Sumanojima for his return, still cherishing the robe and hat.

Appartion of the Spider Princess
Appartion of the Spider Princess
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In 976, Minamoto no Raiko was tormented at night by a monstrous spider, so his retainer, Sakata Kintoki, lodged in the chambers to capture it. The story is told in the play Tsuchigumo.

She doesn't look much like a monster, does she? Sakata has been dozing with his head on a go board. Hearing her noise, He peeks awake as a seductive woman, apparently an apparition created by the spider, glides by (you can tell she is a ghostly thing -- she is portrayed without feet). She looks more intent on mischief than mayhem, if you ask me....

The Demon of Rashomon Retrieves her Arm
AThe Demon of Rashomon Retrieves her Arm
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One night in 976 -- clearly a good year for legendary exploits -- Watanabe no Tsuna, a Heian warlord, accepted a dare to keep vigil at the demon-haunted Rasho Gate. In the darkness, he was attacked by the demon Ibaraki and, in the struggle, cut off Ibaraki's arm. Advised by a Shinto priest to place it in a box with certain rites, fast and see no one for seven days to purify himself against the demon's revenge, Watanabe broke these strictures on the sixth day to accomodate a visit from his elderly aunt -- some versions say his old nurse -- Mashiba. As he is showing her the arm and explaining his actions, Mashiba, who is really Ibaraki disguised, grabs the arm and escapes.

Yoshitoshi did another version of this story in his 36 Ghosts series, showing Ibaraki escaping with the arm. Both are based on the Kabuki play Ibaraki, which premiered in 1883.

The Imprisonment
Morinaga imprisoned at Kamakura
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Otonomiya Morinaga Sinna (1308 - 1334) was a son of Go-daigo (reign 1318 - 1339), the 96th Tenno (Emperor) of Japan. During the Genko War, Go-daigo rebelled against the power of the Bakufu (shogunate government), with limited success. Prince Morinaga, who had been active in the rebellion, was captured in 1333 and imprisoned in an underground dungeon in Kamakura, where his spirit is still worshipped. He is shown here, reading the Lotus Sutra. Morinaga was beheaded, in 1334, at the age of 26.

 

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