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Kobayakawa Takakage debating with the Tengu on Mount Hiko

Kobayakawa Takakage

Colour print from woodblocks, with blackened red lead. Ôban format.
Block-cutter: Chokuzan (Negishi Chokuzan).
Publisher: Sasaki Toyokichi. First edition, 1892.
Keyes 509-29; Stevenson 29

From the series New Forms of the Thirty-six Ghosts (Shingata sanjûrokkaisen) published in 1899-92.

Tengu (‘heavenly dogs’) were a form of goblin supposed to be born from giant eggs. They usually had long noses and lived on mountains, often taking the form of itinerant mountain priests (yamabushi). They were usually helpful sources of advice. Kobayakawa Takakage (1532-97) served as a general to Toyotomi Hideyoshi who unified Japan at the end of the sixteenth century. During a campaign on the island of Kyushu in the 1580s he was camped on Mount Hiko, when suddenly through the mists appeared this tengu, dressed as a yamabushi, demanding sternly to talk to the general whose army had disturbed him. Kobayakawa entered into debate and gained great wisdom from the tengu.

The novelty of Yoshitoshi’s design is to show us the view looking down through the parting of the mist to see Kobayakawa, seated for debate, and his astonished companions.

Purchased from the Rylands Fund with a contribution from the National Art Collections Fund, 2003 P.29-2003

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