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Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1797-1861
Fifty-Three Pairing for the Tokaido Road: Okabe
(Tokaido gojusan tsui: Okabe)

signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga, artist's seal Kiri, carver's seal Renkichi roshi (Sugawa Renkichi), publisher's seal Kyu, Ibakyu han (Ibaya Kyubei of Kinseido), censor's seal Mura (Murata Sahei), ca. 1845
oban tate-e 14 3/8 by 9 1/2 in., 36.6 by 24 cm
The Cat Stone of Moriko was in Okabe village, a stop on the Tokaido found at the end of a threatening ivy covered road (referred to in the descriptive cartouche). Nearby the Cat Stone was said to be a witch who would welcome young women into her house at night. Once inside, they were killed and eaten. As there were many cats in the village, it was assumed that the witch was a cat in human form. Kuniyoshi loved cats, and would often incorporate them into his compositions. However, this clearly does not suggest that his cat subjects are always friendly. They are often mischievous, villainous, and violent.
The description in the title cartouche:

If you follow the ivy path above the level precinct of the shrine, you will find a stone called the Cat Stone (Nekoishi). This gigantic rock nestled behind six or seven old pine trees looks like a cat lying down. There was once a house in this very location where an old wildcat transformed itself into an old woman and harmed and tormented a lot of local people. However, the cat could not escape its own fate and died. People handed down by word of mouth the belief that the ghost of the cat turned into the stone, but there is no certain evidence for that.
The ivy pass was made famous by a poem written by Ariwara Narihira (825-880) in his Ise monogatari (The Tales of Ise), but did not rise to cultural prominence until the kabuki play Hitori tabi gojusan tsugi (Travelling Alone along the Fifty-Three Stations) by Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755-1829) which premiered in 1827 in Edo. The legend of the Cat Stone of Moriko and its ghostly inhabitants would become a staple of kabuki Tokaido plays thereafter.
Andreas Marks, Tokaido Texts and Tales, 2015, pp. 84-85, cat. no. 22 (cartouche translation)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (, from the Bigelow Collection, accession nos. 11.25044 and 11.45385.22
price: Sold