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The Priest Nichiren praying for the restless spirit of the cormorant fisherman at the Isawa river

Nichiren shônin isawagawa nite ukai no meikon o saido shitamau no zo

Colour print from woodblocks, with textile printing (nunomezuri), and with blackened red lead.
Ôban format triptych.
Block-cutter: Yamamoto (Yamamoto Shinji).
Publisher: Akiyama Takeemon. 05/1885
Keyes 472

Nichiren (1222-82) was a Buddhist priest who often clashed with authority and founded the esoteric Nichiren sect (Nichiren shû). He is shown on the right with his companion Nikkô (1246-1333), who succeeded Nichiren as leader of the sect. On the left is the ghost of the fisherman Kansaku, who had died as a result of fishing in a sacred area, and in 1274 appeared to Nichiren in a dream and begged him to save his lost soul. On waking, the priest found himself on the bank of the Isawa river in the Province of Kai, and there he prayed for Kansaku’s soul. Kansaku’s ghost is attended by several of the cormorants that he used to catch fish (tight metal collars were placed round the cormorants necks so that they could not swallow the fish before he had collected it).

The story of Nichiren and the cormorant fisherman was the basis of the kabuki play Nichiren shônin minori no umi (Nichiren and the waters of Dharma), and Kuniyoshi had featured it in a series of 10 landscape prints published around 1831.

Purchased from the Rylands Fund with a contribution from the National Art Collections Fund, 2003


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