Japanese Heroes for the Twelve Signs

(Eiyű Yamato jűni-shi, 英雄大倭十二士)

Publisher: Mikawa-ya Kihei

1854

 

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 (熊坂長範) in monk’s robes

Robinson: S84.1

 

Sign: Ox (Ushi, )

Hero: Yamamoto Kansuke Nyűdo Dôki (山本勘助入道道鬼) 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 design.  The skin no longer has a blue tinge, and there is no purple in the title cartouche.

 

Sign: Tiger (Tora, )

Hero: Katô Kiyomaso (和藤内) 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 (武蔵坊辨慶) hurling the great bell of Miidera

Robinson: S84.5

 

A simplified version of the above design

 

Sign: Snake (Mi, )

Hero: Egara Hata (荘栖平太) 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This is another edition of the above print in which all the green has been replaced by blue.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 (楠河内判官正成, 1294-1336) and his retainer making paper standards to trick the enemy

Robinson: S84.8

 

Sign: Monkey (Saru, )

Hero: Onzôshi Ushiwaka Maru (御曹子牛若丸) playing with monkeys by a cascade in a pine forest by moonlight

Robinson: S84.9

 

Sign: Cock (Tori, )

Hero: Lord Sasaki Saburô Moritsuna (佐々木三郎盛綱) with cockerel behind him  

Robinson: S84.10

 

Sign: Dog (Inu, )

Hero: Hata Rokurozaemon (畑六郎左衛門) with his faithful dog

Robinson: S84.11

 

Sign: Boar (I, )

Hero: Kajiwara Heizo Kagetoki (梶原平三景時) 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.

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