Japanese Heroes for the Twelve Signs

(Eiyű Yamato jűni-shi, 英雄大倭十二士)

Publisher: Mikawa-ya Kihei


The Buddhist zodiac consists of twelve animals—rat, bull (or ox), tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, goat, monkey, cock, dog and boar.  There is a story that only these twelve animals came when called by Buddha, and this is the order in which they came.  These animals, including the rat and serpent, have a better reputation in Buddhist countries than in the West.  In this series of prints, Japanese heroes are likened to the twelve animals of the zodiac.  The prints in this series are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban.


Sign: Rat (Ne, )

Hero: Kumasaka Chôhan in monk’s robes

Robinson: S84.1


Sign: Ox (Ushi, )

Hero: Yamamoto Kansuke Nyűdo Dôki mortally wounded, leaning on his spear and resting on a dead horse and warrior, a river and silhouetted warriors behind

Robinson: S84.2


This is another state of the above print.  The skin of the dead and dying is no longer blue, and other changes in the color palate have been made.


Sign: Tiger (Tora, )

Hero: Katô Kiyomaso confronting one of the tigers that plagued the invasion of Korea

Robinson: S84.3


Sign: Hare (U, )

Hero: Shinozuka Iga no Kami (篠塚伊賀守) shouting on the seashore and grasping his spear

Robinson: S84.4


Sign: Dragon (Tatsu, )

Hero: Musashi-bô Benkei hurling the great bell of Miidera

Robinson: S84.5


A simplified version of the above design


Sign: Snake (Mi, )

Hero: Egara Hata kneeling on rocky precipice to savage serpent that seized pheasant he was hunting

Robinson: S84.6


Sign: Horse (Uma, )

Hero: Shirafuji Hikoshichirô carrying his horse (強力の午 白藤彦七郎)

Robinson: S84.7


This is another edition of the above print in which all the green has been replaced by blue.


Sign: Goat (Utsuji, )

Hero: Kusunoki Kawachi hangan Masashige (1294-1336) and his retainer making paper standards to trick the enemy

Robinson: S84.8


Sign: Monkey (Saru, )

Hero: Onzôshi Ushiwaka Maru playing with monkeys by a cascade in a pine forest by moonlight

Robinson: S84.9


Sign: Cock (Tori, )

Hero: Lord Sasaki Saburô Moritsuna with cockerel behind him  

Robinson: S84.10


Sign: Dog (Inu, )

Hero: Hata Rokurozaemon with his faithful dog

Robinson: S84.11


Sign: Boar (I, )

Hero: Kajiwara Heizo Kagetoki with attendants behind him looking out from behind a banner

Robinson: S84.12

“Robinson” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.