Ushiwakamaru Defeats the Robber Gang
Ushiwakamaru Defeats the Robber Gang of Kumasaka Chôhan
Edo Period (1600-1868)
13 11/16 x 29 11/16 in. (34.7 x 75.4 cm)
(Edo, Japan, 1822 - 1866, Japan)
Full Title:Ushiwakamaru Defeats the Robber Gang of Kumasaka Chôhan
Medium and Support:
Gift of Margaret Sterling in memory of M. Louise Stowell, transfer from the Art Department of the University of Rochester
Location: Not currently on view
Legend records that when the legendary Genji general Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-89) was a boy he was called Ushiwakamaru and was capable of supernatural feats of strength. Kumasaka Chôhan was a notorious bandit whose exploits have been popularized for centuries in the folk tales and legends of Japan. Most famous were his attacks against travelers in the Province of Mino, where there was a pine tree, approximately 20 meters high, from which it was possible to spy upon the unsuspecting and rob them of their luggage and valuables. One day Kumasaka's outlaw band attacked Ushiwakamaru, then only sixteen years old and traveling with a merchant's retinue. Ushiwakamaru soundly defeated the thugs, displaying astonishing swordsmanship and slaying thirteen of them. When Chôhan attempted to dispatch the youth himself, he failed, suffering many wounds as Ushiwakamaru danced and leapt about, easily parrying the blows from his adversary. This legend became a popular subject in songs, dances, and kabuki dramas.
The scene depicted in this print is from the kabuki play "A Minamoto Resplendent in Victory"; its imagery may be based on a May 1861 performance at the Horie Ichigawa theater in Ôsaka.