YOSHITOSHI TSUKIOKA: Yoshitoshi Sketches, 1882

Soga no Juro Riding to Oiso
Soga no Juro Riding to Oiso
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Soga no Juro was the elder of two infant sons of the murdered Kawazu Saburo Sukeyasu. He was adopted by his mother's second husband, but his brother, Goro, was sent to the monastery at Oiso. Eighteen years later, they killed Kudo Suketsune, the murderer, in an episode included in Yoshitoshi's Courageous Warriors. Here Juro, having learned Kudo's whereabouts, rides hellbent to get his brother so that they may do their filial duty.

Is it just me, or does all this samurai honour, revenge and murder bear a passing resemblance to the practises of the Mafia? Sure, Juro and Goro became great heroes, but they were also executed, and, just my humble opinion, all the kabuki plays and woodblock prints in the world really don't compensate for a life not lived....

Tokimasa Viewing the Moon
Tokimasa Viewing the Moon
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Hojo Tokimasa (1138 - 1215) helped his son-in-law, Minamoto Yoritomo, defeat the Taira. When Yoritomo died in 1199, Tokimasa became shikken (regent) to the sixteen-year-old heir, his grandson Yoriie, a position that became hereditary in the Hojo family. Not, however, without the usual rivalries and scheming: in Tokimasa's case, the rivals were the Hiki, who had claims on the shogun through marriage. With ruthless efficiency, Tokimasa wiped out the Hikis, and forced Yoriie from office. Yoriie was murdered within a year, probably at Tokimasa's order. Tokimasa raised the twelve-year-old , Sanemoto, as Shogun, with himself as Regent.

However, in 1204, Tokimasa alienated his son. Yoshitoki, by ordering him to kill Hatakeyama Shigetada, Tokimasa’s son-in-law, for treason. Hatakeyama was killed, but Yoshitoki believed him innocent, which he probably was. In 1205, Yoshitoki heard that Tokimasa was planning to have Sanetomo killed, and put the youth under guard. He challenged his father, and forced Tokimasa into exile at Izu.

The Moon of Truth
The Moon of Truth
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Fuwa Banzaemon, a kabuki character, in a Tanzen Costume. Yoshitoshi is not generally known for a sense of humour, any more than, say da Vinci or Van Gogh. However, he did a number of satirical and whimsical prints, not exactly subtle, but then subtlety rarely puts rice in the bowl....

The Priest Nichiren in Exile on Sado Island
The Priest Nichiren in Exile on Sado Island
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Nichiren (1222-1282), founder of the sect Nichiren Buddhism, came to the conclusion in 1253 that the Lotus Sutra was the only legitimate scripture in Buddhism, and had been written by Sakyamuni himself. He petitioned the Emperor to have his Buddhism instituted as the state religion and all other sects forbidden. This did not sit well with either the Emperor or the other Buddhist sects: he was exiled several times, including, in 1271, to Sado Island, where he stayed for three years.

 

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