Returning Sails from the Ryukyu Islands

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Eight Views of Warriors' Fine Tales: Returning Sails from the Ryukyu Islands
(Bidan musha hakkei: Ryukyu no kihan)

signed Tsuikioka Yoshitoshi hitsu, with artist's seal Kaisai, carver's seal unread (possibly Utamitsu), publisher's seal Kinseido (Sanoya Tomigoro), and combined date and censor seal, U-kyu, aratame (year of the hare [1867], 9th lunar month, examined)

oban tate-e triptych 14 3/8 by 29 in., 36.4 by 73.7 cm

Minamoto Tametomo (identified as Chinzei Hachiro Tametomo, 1139-1170) carries his tanchozuru (red-crowned crane) in a cage upon his back as he bids farewell to his wife, Princess Nei (Nei-wannyo), and prepares to leave the Ryukyu Islands. The historical samurai Tametomo was defeated by the legendary Taira Kiyomori (1118-1181) in the Hogen Rebellion of 1156 and banished to the island of Oshima, where he committed seppuku. This composition draws from a romanticization of his life, Strange Tales of the Stretched Bowstrings-The Crescent Moon (Chinsetsu yumiharizuki), written by the popular author Takizawa Bakin (1767-1848) which was published as a serial novel between 1807 and 1811.

In Bakin's story, the illustrious warrior escaped death in Oshima and, in one of many subsequent adventures, was shipwrecked in Ryukyu. Over the seven years following the wreck, Tametomo would suppress a rebellion, marry the Princess Nei, and father the first Ryukyun king, Shunten, thus becoming the progenitor of the Ryukyu monarchy. Though other variations of the story tell of Tametomo and his wife ascending to heaven, here Tametomo departs for Japan with his trusted crane, who is his companion in many of his legends. Another episode from Chinsetsu yumiharizuki tells of the crane attacking a murderous monkey atop a pagoda. In some versions of the tales, it is the missing crane that draws Tametomo to Ryukyu in the first place and facilitates his romance with Princess Nei.

Keyes 1983, p. 375, no. 200.2
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 105, no. 19.2
King & Iwakiri 2007, pp. 88, 302-303 (re: Tametomo)
Freer/Sackler, accession no. S1993.69a-c



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site last updated
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