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Kuwana Station: Story of Sailor Tokuzō
(Kuwana - 桑名: Funanori Tokuzō no den - 船のり徳蔵の傳) from the series
53 Stations of the Eastern Sea Road (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui - 東海道五十三対)   

Identifier: 1845c Kuniyoshi umi bozu

There are nine prints from this series, Fifty-three Pairings for the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui - 東海道五十三対), in the Lyon Collection. See also #s 382, 815, 816, 819, 861, 1022, 1095 and 1269.

Station #43, from a series collaborated by artists Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Utagawa Hiroshige, and Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III). Image depicts apparition of the "sea monk," umibōzu, towering over the ship captain Tokuzō.

An umibōzu, sea monster, appears frequently in coastal folklore and Edo period writings. It is notorious for wrecking boats and dragging people into the sea. A well-known umibōzu tale appears in the Usō Kanwa 雨窓閑話, a collection of stories from the late Edo period:

A noted sailor by the name of Kuwana no Tokuzō 桑名の徳蔵 violates the taboo on boating at the end of the month and goes out to sea alone. Sure enough, he encounters a great nyūdō (a euphemism for a bald-headed monster) 1 jō (~3 meters or 10 feet) in height, with terrible eyes like scarlet mirrors. The ōnyūdō asks Tokuzō if he finds its shape frightening, but the sailor replies that he finds nothing frightening but making his way in the world. With no reply to this wit, the umibōzu vanishes instantly.


The curatorial files from the Walters Museum of Art say:

The Sea Monk (Umi Bozu) is a sea monster with a smooth round head, like the shaven head of a Buddhist monk. This woodblock print illustrates the story of the sailor Kawanaya Tokuzo, who decides to go to sea on the last day of the year, which other sailors consider unlucky. A violent storm breaks out, and the Umi Bozu appears. In a ghastly voice the apparition demands, "Name the most horrible thing you know!" Tokuzo yells back, "My profession is the most horrible thing I know!" The monster is apparently satisfied with this answer and disappears along with the storm.


There is another copy of this print in the National Gallery, Prague and in the Harn Museum at the University of Florida. There is another copy of this print in the National Gallery, Prague.


The text at the top in the fan-shaped cartouche reads:まだ霧ふかき朝まだき 城のこなたの松原にて 源之丞が二人の伜 かんなん辛苦も時を得て 恨みかさなる水右衛門を首尾よく討取本地に返り 名を万代に残しける めでたしめでたし

The text toward the bottom reads: 石井が隠妻(ことつま)お松といえるは明石の里に侘住ひ 二人り子供を養育し賎が手業に世を送る まづしき中に操を立 夫の身の上物案じ しばしまどろむ夕暮に 門辺にたたずむ源之丞 昔にかはらぬ立派の出立 お松は嬉しく出迎ひ 御堅固なりしか我夫(つま)と いわんとすればこつぜんと ねふりはさめて逆夢なる 返り討ときくよりも ひたんに袖をしぼりしが 思ひ定めて幼子を 舅の源蔵に預け置き みどりの黒髪をおし切て 菩提の道に入りにける


Illustrated in color in Kunisada's Tōkaidō: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints by Andreas Marks, p. 106, #T78-43.


There are other copies of this print in the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and in the National Diet Library in Japan.

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