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Akazome Emon from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

Emperor Takakura's Palace Servants from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Akazome Emon

from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

by Inoue Yasuji, 1886

Tanaka Tsurukichi from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

IHL Cat. #1295

About This Print

Print number 6 (六)1 in the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition depicts the poetess Akazome Emon (赤染衛門 956–1041) leaving Sumiyoshi Shrine after offering her life for the life of her ill son.  The story is told in the Konjaku Monogatarishū (今昔物語集 Anthology of Tales from the Past), a collection of over one thousand tales written during the late Heian period (794-1185), as follows: 

Ōe no Takachika, 大江の挙周 (c. 977-1046) the son of the 11th century poetess Akazome Emon fell seriously ill after he became Governor of Izumi. Akazome Emon, much aggrieved, dedicated a sacred staff with a poem offering her life for her son’s to Sumiyoshi Shrine. The poem read:
 The life I pray
 Be taken in place of his
 I do not begrudge;

 But on the parting

 Is so bitter!
 Kawaran to

 Inoru inochi wa


 Satemo wakaren

 Koto zo kanashiki

That night in a dream she saw a white-haired old man take the poem.  Takachika recovered completely.

Inoue, a student of Kobayashi Kiyochika, contributed thirteen prints to this series.  He was to die at the age of 25 in 1889, three years after this print was issued.

1 Numbering of the prints was haphazard during the production of the series. Print numbers were sometimes inadvertently omitted; some prints in the series were never assigned numbers and a few of the same numbers appear on different prints. 

Akazome Emon

Source: Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image, Joshua S. Mostow,  University of Hawaii Press, 1996, p. 316.

"Emon was the daughter of Akazome no Tokimochi.  She served Fuiwara no Michinaga's principal wife, Rinshi, as well as Ichigō's Empress Shōshi (Rinshi's daughter.)  She married the historian Ōe no Masahira.  She is credited with the authorship of the first thirty books of the vernacular history A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga Monogatari).  A collection of her poetry is also extant.  She has ninety-three poems in the Shūishū and later imperial anthologies and is one of the Late Classical Thirty-Six Poetic Immortals."

Transcription of Scroll

Source: with thanks to Yajifun http://yajifun.tumblr.com/

6 Akazome’emon 赤染衛門

教導立志基 六 赤染衛門 井上探景(安治) 1886年5月21日明治19521


赤染衛門ハ慈し子の病ひ重りて命旦夕に逼(迫)りしを悲み我身の命を斷(断 たゝ)せられ吾子を一度救ひ給へと身を住吉の神に捧げ祈誓を獻(献 たてまつ)りしかバ神も感應(感応)在ませしや「代らんと願ふ此身は惜からて さても別れんことの悲しさ」と記しゝ中の幣(ぬさ)抜けて扉乃裏に入りつるよと見しハ眞(真)の通じし?にて夫より病の癒(おこた)りぬと實に歌學(歌学)の徳とや言ならめ 二州楼東江

click on image to enlarge

About The Series "Kyōdō risshi no motoi"

1. This series is variously translated as "Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition," "Foundations of Learning and Achievement," "Foundation of Instruction and Perseverance," "Self-Made Men Worthy of Emulation," "Paragons of Instruction and Success," "Moral of Success," "Examples of Self-Made Leaders," and "Instruction in the Fundamentals of Success."  The title in Japanese is sometimes seen as "Kyōdō risshiki or "Kyōdō risshi no moto," in addition to the most commonly seen transliteration of "Kyōdō risshi no motoi".
2. For a complete listing of all the prints in the series and additional information please see the article on this site titled Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition.

This series ran between October 1885 and November 1890 and featured a long list of heroes and heroines, from antiquity to contemporary times, who were regarded as standards of moral leadership and self-realization.

Source: Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 74-75; original research and as footnoted.
This series of 58 prints,1 plus a table of contents sheet (目録), were originally published between October 1885 and November 1890 by the Tokyo publisher Matsuki Heikichi 松木平吉.2  The table of contents sheet issued by the publisher states that "fifty prints make up the complete set (五十番揃)".  Three prints not in the initial release were added over the five year publication period, as were five redesigns of original prints, eventually increasing the total print count to 58.  The seven artists contributing prints were Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) [20 prints], Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) [16 prints], Inoue Tankei (Yasuji) (1864-1889) [13 prints], Taiso (Tsukioka) Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) [5 prints],  Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) [2 prints], Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900) [1 print], and Hachisuka (Utagawa) Kuniaki II (1835-1888) [1 print].  All the artists, with the exception of Yōshū Chikanobu, are listed in the top scroll of the table of contents sheet.  Various colors (including blue, blue/green, and tan/brown) were used for the decorative border, and in 1902 the series was re-issued by Matsuki without borders.  

Brief texts contained within a scroll-like cartouche appearing on each print provide historical details.  The scroll composer's name is given at the end of the scroll text.  The “lofty ambition” of the title is a Confucian concept, originally from Mencius, meaning “righteous determination that would inspire others.”  The market for the series probably included former samurai, ambitious youth, and conservative intellectuals.

"[W]hen it was completed in 1890 the publisher was singled out for special recognition by the government for having sponsored such noble subject matter."3

1 The Tokyo Metropolitan Library online collection shows 50 prints and a Table of Contents sheet.  The Table of Contents lists the titles of 50 prints.  Smith in Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan identified 52 prints.  I have identified 58 prints from this series including five prints (Ikina, Michizane SugiwaraKesa GozenSoga Brothers and Hokiichi Hanawa) that were re-designed and re-printed, likely due to damaged or lost blocks.
2 Robert Schaap notes in Appendix II, p. 166 of Yoshitoshi, Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection, Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 2011 that the series originally appeared as newspaper supplements.
3 The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, Julia Meech-Pekarik, Weatherhill, 1986, p. 122.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Akazome Emon 赤染衛門
 Series“Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition” (Kyodo risshiki 教導立志基) [note: series title also listed as  'Kyodo Risshi no Moto', ‘Kyodo risshi no motoi’, ‘Kyōdō risshi ki’ and variously translated as “Moral of success” or “Foundations of learning and achievement” or “Self-made Men Worthy of Emulation”' or “Examples of Self-made Leaders” or "Paragons of instruction and success"] 
 Artist Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908)
井上探景 Inoue Tankei
 Seal Tankei 探景 seal as shown above
 Publication Date May 21, 1886 明治十九年五月廿ー日
 Publisher Matsuki Heikichi (松木平吉) proprietor of Daikokuya Heikichi [Marks: seal not shown; pub. ref. 029]
click on image to enlarge
(from right to left)
publishing and printing date: 御届 明治十九年五月廿ー日  
[notification delivered, Meiji 19th year 5th month 21st day]
assigned number within series: 六 [6]
publisher information:     両国吉川町二番地 松木平吉 
[artist and publisher Ryōgoku Yoshikawachō 2-banchi Matsuki Heikichi han]
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - almost full-size; minor marks; five small binding holes along right edge
 Genre ukiyo-erishki-e; kyōiku nishiki-e
 Miscellaneousprint number 6 (); position 6 in the Table of Contents for the series
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper 
 14 1/2 x 10 in. (36.8 x 25.4 cm) 
 H x W Image
 12 11/16 x 8 3/16 in. (32.2 x 20.8 cm) area inside brocade border
 Collections This Print
Tokyo Metropolitan Library 270-K5; Tokyo Digital Museum (Edo-Tokyo Museum) 96200367