Utagawa Kuniyoshi


The Battle of Kasagi Castle in Yamashiro Province
(Yamashiro no kuni Kasagi no ishi-ie kassen no zu)

signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga, publisher's seal Toriaburacho, Tsuruki han (Tsuruya Kiemon of Senkakudo), censor's seal kiwame, ca. 1832

oban tate-e triptych 15 1/8 by 30 7/8 by 30 1/2 in., 38.5 by 78.4 by 77.5 cm

This composition depicts the battle of Kasagi Castle between the forces of Emperor Go-Daigo (1288-1339) and the Hojo shogunate at Kamakura. In the early 14th century there existed an uneasy balance of power between the Emperor and the Hojo clan, whose secular authority over the island seemed to be waning. It was discovered that Go-Daigo was plotting to destroy Kamakura and bring real authority back to the Imperial court. The Emperor was forced to flee to Kasagi Temple in Yamashiro Province, which he had fortified into a castle. After a small Hojo force was routed outside the castle walls, 75,000 men were sent from Kamakura to destroy the castle and take the Emperor into custody. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the Imperialists held the castle for two weeks before the castle was finally taken in a daring night raid and the Emperor was forced to flee into exile.

Kuniyoshi vividly illustrates that climactic night raid, showing the Hojo battalion swarming up the side of the mountain while the Emperor's forces shoot arrows and counter-attack from the battlement in the foreground. In the background, however, Kuniyoshi reveals a small Hojo force scaling the castle walls in spite of a rush of wind, imperiling the Imperialist flank and dooming the Emperor's chance of victory.

Karl F Friday, Samurai, Warfare, and the State in Early Medieval Japan, 2004, pp. 126-128 (re: battle)
George Childs Kohn, Dictionary of Wars, 2013, p. 243 (re: battle)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (mfa.org), accession no. 00.1111-3

price: $1,200


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Scholten Japanese Art
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