Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: No. 10 Fukaya (深谷): Yuriwaka Daijin (百合若大臣), from the series Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road (Kisokaidō rokujūkyū tsugi no uchi - 木曾街道六十九次之内)  

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Dates: 1852,created
Dimensions: 10.2 in,14.875 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Publisher: Kagaya Yasubei
(Marks 196 - seal closest to 25-099)
Date seal: 1852, 5th month
Censors' seals: Hama and Magome

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; British Museum; The Agency for Cultural Affairs; Ena City Museum; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; Google maps - Fukaya;

Physical description:

"Yuriwaka Daijin is a character in kōwakami, a form of musical dance-drama (similar to nō) that was popular in the late sixteenth century. His name may be translated as Young Lord Lily, and lilies decorate the series title border. After fighting in the war against the Mongols in the thirteenth century, Yuriwaka is stranded on an island and is unable to return home for years. When he comes home at last, he has been gone so long, and is so changed by his experiences, that no one recognizes him. His wife believes that he is still alive but is unaware of his return, and she is threatened by the villain Beppu because she has refused to marry him.

In the climactic scene shown here, Yuriwaka demonstrates his identity by stringing and drawing the great bow that only he, a renowned archer, is strong enough to use. He kills Beppu and its happily reunited with his faithful wife. The inset landscape is framed with bowstrings, another reference to this episode.

As early as 1906, the writer, translator, and critic Tsubouchi Shōyō pointed out that the story of Yuriwaka is strikingly similar to the basic plot of Homer's Odyssey, which recounts the adventures of the Greek Odysseus (also known as Ulysses) on his way home from the Trojan War. Further research by various scholars has shown that the Yuriwaka story is not found in older Japanese sources but appeared suddenly in the late sixteenth century, just when Jesuit missionaries were most active in Japan (prior to the banning of Christianity in the 1630s). Moreover, the name Yuri (Lily) is very unusual for a man, but it could well be a Japanese abbreviation of Ulysses. All in all, it seems extremely likely that this tale was inspired by one of the greatest classics in Western literature and was probably written by a sixteenth-century Japanese who had heard the story of The Odyssey form a visiting European."

Quoted from: Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō by Sarah E. Thompson, p. 36.