Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Izumi no Saburō Tadahira tsuma Fujinoe 泉三郎忠衡妻藤の江 Fujinoe, the wife of Izumi Saburō Tadahira) / Honcho Suikoden goyu happyakunin no hitori - 本朝水滸傳豪傑八百人一個 (One of the Eight Hundred Heroes of the Water Margin of Japan, One by One)

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Dates: circa 1830,created
Dimensions: 9.675 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiemon
(Marks 195 - seal 22-025)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: British Museum; Chazen Museum of Art; Lyon Collection - Ca. 1825 Hokushū of Izumi no Saburō on a fan print;Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art;

Physical description:

Fujinoe carries a sword in one hand and naginata in the other, amid flying arrows, overthrows Emoto Jurō and Nagasawa Uemon-taro on the steps of Takadachi Castle in 1189. Illustrated in a small black and white reproduction in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints by B. W. Robinson, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1982, p. 105, S4a.1.


You can't tell it just by looking at this print, but it has a tangential connection with the final defeat of the Japanese national hero, Yoshitsune. Pursued by his brother who tracked him down and surrounded him at Takadachi Castle where Yoshitsune made his last stand and lost. After fighting valiantly he committed suicide there in 1189.

Years later Bashō, the great haiku poet, visited the site of where the castle had once stood. The heights were overgrown with weeds. Bashō wept and composed one of his most famous poems.

natsukusa ya
tsuwamonodomo ga
yume no ato

summer grasses -
the dreams of brave warriors,
the traces

After we posted this translation we had a discussion at the Lyon Collection and decided it might be best to offer another possible interpretation. Keep in mind that ten great scholars in Japanese language studies would each come up with a differently nuanced translation.

夏草やAh, summer grasses!
兵どもがAll that remains
夢の跡Of the warriors' dreams.

David Landis Barnhill in his article "Of Bashos and Buddhism" gave his own translation:

Summer grass:
the remains of
warrior's dream


Before kabuki there was the puppet theater and before these there were and kōwaka (幸若), a form of dance performance often based on military themes. We are mentioning this because Izumi no Saburō was being featured long before kabuki. "In Izumi's Fortress, Izumi no Saburō sacrifices his whole family in order to honor a pledge of loyalty to Yoshitsune. The motif in Izumi's Fortress, [is] avarice as the cause of infidelity....

Then there are the heroic women who are even bolder, more circumspect, and more self-reliant than their gallant men. Izumi's wife has the courage to see her children deliberately killed lest Izumi's concern for their safety sway his determination to honor his pledge of loyalty; she fights alongside him, and in the end, when they are about to take their own lives, she has the presence of mind to make certain that her husband kills himself in a manner becoming a samurai."

Quoted from: The Ballad-drama of Medieval Japan by James T. Araki, p. 116.


There is another copy of this print in the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden.