Artist: Torii Kiyonaga (鳥居清長)

Print: Kintarō reading an ehon on the back of a bear accompanied by an oni holding an ax

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Dates: created,circa 1784 - 1806
Dimensions: Overall dimensions

Signed: Kiyonaga ga (清長画)

Related links: Arizona State University - late 19th to early 20th century print of Kintarō and his bear;

Physical description:

Kintarō (金太郎) is looking at an illustrated battle between two warriors.

There are said to be at least 28 Kiyonaga prints from this series based on the childhood of Kintarō. Many of them were printed by Nishimuraya Yohachi and date from ca. 1784- ca.1806.


In the 1908 book by Yei Theodora Ozaki on Japanese fairy tales it says: "Long, long ago there lived in Kyoto a brave soldier named Kintoki. Now he fell in love with a beautiful lady and married her. Not long after this, through the malice of some of his friends, he fell into disgrace at Court and was dismissed. This misfortune so preyed upon his mind that he did not long survive his dismissal—he died, leaving behind him his beautiful young wife to face the world alone. Fearing her husband’s enemies, she fled to the Ashigara Mountains as soon as her husband was dead, and there in the lonely forests where no one ever came except woodcutters, a little boy was born to her. She called him Kintaro or the Golden Boy. Now the remarkable thing about this child was his great strength, and as he grew older he grew stronger and stronger, so that by the time he was eight years of age he was able to cut down trees as quickly as the woodcutters. Then his mother gave him a large ax, and he used to go out in the forest and help the woodcutters, who called him “Wonder-child,” and his mother the “Old Nurse of the Mountains,” for they did not know her high rank."

Later the fairy tale continues: 'Quite unlike other boys, Kintaro, grew up all alone in the mountain wilds, and as he had no companions he made friends with all the animals and learned to understand them and to speak their strange talk. By degrees they all grew quite tame and looked upon Kintaro as their master, and he used them as his servants and messengers. But his special retainers were the bear, the deer, the monkey and the hare."


Sarah E. Thompson refers to the ax as this "...child warrior's favorite weapon..."