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Murakami Yoshiteru from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

Shizuka Gozen from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Murakami Yoshiteru

from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

by Inoue Yasuji, 1885

Story of Kirino Toshiaki's Mistress, Akiko from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

IHL Cat. #1032

About This Print

Print number 廿一 (21)1 in the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition picturing Murakami Hikoshirō Yoshiteru (村上 彦四郎 義光), a retainer of Prince Morinaga's (1308-1335), taking back his prince's Imperial banner from imperious villagers. He wears the cap of a yamabushi (fighting monk) which the Prince's party used as disguises during their flight from Kyoto to Yoshino in Yamata where the Prince intended to build a new castle outside the reach of the Regent, Hōjō Takatoki (1303-1333.)  

Inoue, a student of Kobayashi Kiyochika, contributed thirteen prints to this series.  He was to die at the age of 25 in 1889, four 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. 

The Story of Murakami Yoshiteru's Faithfulness

The story of Yoshiteru's valor is told in The Taiheki, the Japanese historical epic written in the 14th century. 

Source: Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan, Richard Gordeon Smith, A. & C. Blac,, 1918, p. 97-101. 

MURAKAMI YOSHITERU—We shall call him Yoshiteru for short—was one of the faithful retainers of Prince Morinaga, third son of the Emperor Godaigo, who reigned from 1319 to 1339. When I say 'reigned,' I mean that Godaigo was Emperor; but there was a Regent at the time, Hojo Takatoki, who ruled with harshness and great selfishness.

With the exception of young Prince Morinaga, the Imperial family appeared to take things easily. They preferred quietude and comfort to turbulence and quarrelling. Prince Morinaga was different. Fiery-tempered and proud, he thought that Hojo Takatoki was usurping the Emperor's rights. The man, he said, was nothing more by birth than one of the Emperor's subjects, and had no business to be made Regent.

Naturally these opinions led to trouble, and it was not very long before Prince Morinaga was obliged to leave the capital suddenly, with his followers, of whom there were some hundreds, not enough to fight Hojo Takatoki at the time.

Prince Morinaga had made up his mind that it would be better to live independently in Yamato than to be under the sway of Hojo Takatoki, as were his father and his elder brothers. Having collected the most faithful of his followers—of whom the most notable was the hero of our story, Murakami Yoshiteru,—the Prince left the capital in disguise, and started for Yoshino in Yamato. There, in the wild mountains, he intended to build a castle, in which to dwell for the rest of his days independent of the Regent, whom he held in much loathing. 

Prince Morinaga carried with him an Imperial flag, which, he expected, would gain for him sympathy and help even in the wild Yamato Province. Though from Kioto the then capital to the borders of Yamato is, in a direct line, only about thirty miles, the whole country is mountainous and wild; roads are non-existent, mountain paths taking their place. Consequently, it was noon on the fifth day before the Prince found himself at a little border village called Imogase [Imose]. Here he found his way blocked as it were by a guard-house, the soldiery of which had been chosen from among Imogase villagers, headed by one Shoji, a rough and disagreeable man. 

When Prince Morinaga and his party of about eighty followers dressed as yamabushi (fighting monks) arrived, flying the standard, they were called to a halt by the village guard, and told that they could go no farther into Yamato without leaving one of themselves as hostage. The Prince was too haughty to speak to the villagers and explain, and, unfortunately, Murakami Yoshiteru, his most trusted leader, could not be found, for he had remained some miles behind to gather straw and make a new pair of waraji (straw shoes). Shoji, leader of the Imogase villagers, was firm in his demand that one of the party should be left behind until their return. For some twenty minutes matters stood thus. Neither side wanted to fight. At last Shoji said: 

'Well, you may say that you are a prince! I am a simple villager, and I don't know. You may carry the Imperial flag; but when you are dressed like yamabushi it does not look exactly as if you were a prince. As I don't want trouble, and you want to pass without trouble, -my orders being that out of all parties of over ten armed people I am to hold one as a hostage,—the only suggestion that I can make is that I keep as hostage this Imperial flag.' 

The prince, glad enough to save leaving one of his faithful followers, gave the standard to Shoji as hostage, and then he and his party were allowed to pass into Yamato. They proceeded on their way. Not half-an-hour after they had passed, Murakami Yoshiteru arrived at the guard-house, having made himself a pair of straw shoes, to take the place of his old ones; and his surprise at seeing his master's flag in such low hands was equalled by his anger. 

'What is the meaning of this?' he asked. 

Shoji explained what had happened. 

On hearing the story Murakami lost control of his temper. He flew into a violent passion. He reviled Shoji and his men as a set of low blackguards who scarcely had a right to look at the Imperial standard of Japan, much less to dare to touch it; and with that he began a general assault on the village guard, killing three or four and putting the rest to flight. Murakami then seized the standard, and ran on with it until, towards evening, he came up with the Prince and his party, who were overjoyed at what he had done and at the recovery of the flag. 

Two days later the party reached Yoshino, and in the vicinity of this place they built a fortress, where for some months they dwelt in peace. It was not long, however, before the Regent heard of the prince's whereabouts, and he soon sent a small army after him. For two days the fort was desperately attacked; on the third the outer gates were taken; two-thirds of the prince's men were dead'. Murakami, had been wounded three times, and his life could not last long. Faithful to the end, he rushed to his prince, saying, 'Master, I am wounded unto death. In less than half-an-hour our enemies will have conquered us, for we have but few men left. Your Highness is unwounded, and can in disguise escape when the end comes. Give me quick your armour, and let me pretend that I am your Highness. I will show our enemies how a prince can die.' 

Changing clothes hastily, and donning the prince's armour, Murakami, bleeding badly from his wounds, and already more dead than alive with weakness from the loss of blood, regained the wall, and struggling up the last steps he reached a point where he could see and be seen by the whole of the enemy. 

'I am Prince Morinaga!' shouted he. 'Fate is against me, though I am in the right. Sooner or later Heaven's punishment will come down on you. Until then my curses upon you, and take a lesson as to how a prince can die, emulating it, if you dare, when your time comes!' 

With this Murakami Yoshiteru drew his short sword across his abdomen, and, seizing his quivering entrails, he flung them into the midst of his enemies, his dead body falling directly afterwards. 

His head was taken to the Regent in Kioto as the head of Prince Morinaga, who escaped to plot in the future. 

Transcription of Scroll

click on image to enlarge

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

21 Murakami Yoshiteru? 村上義光

教導立志基 廿一 村上義光 井上探景(安治) 1885年12月25日


村上義光は彦四郎と称し官左馬権頭なり元弘の亂(乱)護良親王に従て吉野に赴く 土人芋瀬某 賊の為に之を要す親王従者をして之に説かしむ 芋瀬遂に路を開き錦旗 若くは近臣一兩名(一両名)を留めんことを請ふ 依て錦旗を授て過ぐ義光後(おくれ)て到り芋瀬乃衆卒錦旗を荷ふて行くを見て大に怒り直に前(すゝ)ミて衆卒を斃し旗を奪て去る 後 吉野陥るに及び親王に代り自盡すと云實(実)に忠勇共に得難き名傑なり 久松小學生徒 幸 脩 十四年二ヶ月”

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 Murakami Yoshiteru 村上義光
 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 Inoue Yasuji (1864-1889)
Inoue Tankei ga 井上 探景画
artist's Tankei  探景 red oval seal below signature [as shown above]
 Publication Date December 25, 1885 明治 十八年 十二月 廿五日
 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 明治十八年 月 廿 
[notification delivered, Meiji 18 12th month 25th day]
assigned number within series: 廿一 [21]
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 - full size; not backed; loss along left margin and bottom left margin
 Genre ukiyo-e; rishki-e; kyōiku nishiki-e
 Miscellaneous print number 21 (廿一); position 21 in the Table of Contents for the series
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper 
 13 7/8 x 9 3/4 in. (35.2 x 24.8 cm) 
 H x W Image 13 7/8 x 9 3/8 in. (35.2 x 23.8 cm) [12 1/2 x 8 1/4 in. (31.8 x 21 cm) area inside brocade border]
 Collections This Print
 The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-3017, 012-0958; Tokyo Metropolitan Library 280-K37; Tokyo Digital Museum (Edo-Tokyo Museum) 96200383; San Francisco Fine Arts Museums 1963.30.1769