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Oda Nobunaga from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Oda Nobunaga

from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1885

Hanawa Hokiichi from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition
IHL Cat. #780

About This Print

Print number 卅二 (32)1 in the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition picturing Oda Nobunaga 織田信長 (1534-1582), Japanese military commander in the Azuchi-Momoyama period and one of Japan's "Three Great Unifiers."  Nobunaga rides in an outlandish outfit with an attendant holding an umbrella over his head, surrounded by other attendants with his troops following.  A disguised Saitō Dōsan 斎藤 道三 (1494–1556), his future father-in-law, is seen poking his head out of a hut, sneaking a peek at Nobunaga.

Kiyochika contributed 20 prints to this series.  As Smith states: "Thestyle of Kiyochika’s offerings to Instructive Models of LoftyAmbition was decorous and even stiff, as befitted the didacticemphasis of the whole [series.]"2

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. 
Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 74.

The Story of the Meeting of Oda Nobunaga and Saitō Dōsan

The story takes place during the mid-16th century, 1549, when clan-based civil wars raged across Japan's fragmented provinces.  Nobunaga, to become known as one of Japan's "Three Great Unifiers" (and for his rash and bizarre behavior) has been betrothed by his father, Nobuhide of Owari, to the daughter of rival daimyo, Saitō Dōsan of Mino.

Source: Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan, Eiji Yoshikawa, Kodansha International, Ltd., 1992, p. 99-107.
Shortly before Nobunaga's father, Nobuhide of Otawari, died he arranged for his son to marry the daughter  of Saitō Dōsan of Mino.  While Nobuhide and Dōsan were historical enemies, it was not unusual in this time of warfare for this type of political marriage.

Saitō Dōsan, anxious to meet his son-in-law "whose reputation for being a fool was well known" arranged a meeting at Shotokuji Temple in Tonda, on the border between their two provinces.

Leading a large body of men, Nobunaga left Nagoya Castle, crossed the Kiso and Hida rivers, and pushed on to Tonda.  About five hundred of his men carried longbows or firearms; another four hundred had crimson spears eighteen feet long; and they were followed by three hundred foot soldiers.  They marched in solemn silence.  A corps of horsemen in the middle of the procession surrounded Nobunaga.  They were prepared for any emergency.

Lord Saitō Dōsan of Mino having heard many stories about Nobunaga decided to steal a look at him before their formal meeting, so he and a few of his loyal samurai and retainers hid in a commoner's hut along the route Nobunaga was to follow.  When the Nobunaga procession passed, Dōsan "gave his attention to the road outside the window. Locking the entrance, his retainers pressed their faces against the crevices and holes in the wooden doors.  They maintained strict silence."

[As Nobunaga's procession passed they saw] musketeers, carrying their polished firearms [walking] ten abreast, in detachments of forty men; the red shafts of the spears [looking] like a forest.... With baited breath, Dōsan studied the gait of the soldiers and the arrangement of their ranks.  Following the wave of marching feet came the sound of horses' hooves and loud voices.  Dōsan could not let his eyes stray from the scene.

In the midst of the horsemen was a remarkably fine horse with a glittering muzzle.  Atop the rich saddle, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, sat Nobunaga, holding reins of purple interwoven with white.  He was chatting gaily with his retainers.

'What's this?' were the words that slipped slowly from Dōsan's mouth.  He looked astounded.  Nobunaga's appearance dazzled the eye.  He had heard that the lord of the Oda went about in bizarre clothing, but this far exceeded anything he had heard.

Nobunaga  sat swaying in the saddle of the thoroughbred horse, his hair arranged in a general's topknot tied with pale green braid.  He was dressed in a brightly patterned cotton coat with one sleeve removed.  Both his long and short swords were inlaid with abalone shell and bound in sacred rice straw, twisted in the shape of a good-luck charm.  Hanging from his belt were seven or eight items: a tinder bag, a small gourd, a medicine case, a string-bound folding fan, a small carving of a horse, and several jewels.  Beneath his half-length skirt of tiger and leopard skin was a garment made of shiny gold brocade.

Nobunaga turned in the saddle and called out, "Daisuke, is this the place?  Is this Tonda?"  He shouted so loudly that Dōsan heard him clearly from his hiding place.

Daisuke, who was acting as guard, rode up to his master. "Yes, and the Shotokuji Temple, where you're to meet your esteemed father-in-law, is right over there.  We should be on our best behavior from now on...."

After Nobunaga had gone by, Dōsan's retainers fought back the desire to burst out laughing.  Their faces showed how much they had struggled not to laugh at the ludicrousness of the display. 
Is that it?" Dōsan asked.  Then, "Is that the last of the procession?"
"Yes, all of it."
"Did you get a good look at him?"
"From a distance."
'Well, his appearance doesn't run counter to the rumors.  His features are good and his physique is passable, but there's something missing up here," Dōsan said, raising his finger to his head, smiling with apparent satisfaction.

Several retainers came hurriedly through the back door.  "Please hurry, my lord.  It's one thing if Nobunaga becomes suspicious, but what if his retainers do, too? Shouldn't we be at the temple first?"

They spilled out of the back door of the house and took a concealed path to the temple.  Just as the vanguard of the Owari samurai stopped at the front gate of the Shotokuji, they hurried in through the back gate, acting as though nothing had happened.  They changed quickly and went out to the main entrance.  The temple gate was filled with people.  As all of the men from Mino had been summoned for the formalities, the main temple, the great hall, and the guest's reception room were deserted, left to the wind.

Kasuga Tango, one of Dōsan's senior retainers, turned to his seated master and quietly asked how he proposed to conduct the meeting.

Dōsan shook his head. 'There's no reason for me to go."  To his way of thinking, Nobunaga was only his son-in-law
. [But his plan was to be changed by Nobunaga's actions upon reaching the temple.]

When Nobunaga arrived at the temple, he was met with over one hundred Saitō retainers who prostrated themselves in greeting.  Being given a place to rest, Nobunaga changed his appearance from his garish processional garb to that of an elegant young courtier.  When he reappeared everyone was astonished by this change.  Accompanied by Saitō's retainer, Doku, Nobunaga strode down the hall to the reception room.

Completely at ease, he sat down, leaning back against the pillar at the edge of the room... His eyes were cool and his features composed.   Even courtiers probably had less well-ordered features.  But someone paying attention only to his looks would miss the defiance in his eyes.  In one corner of the room, there was a slight rustling as a man got to his feet.  Dōsan stepped out from the shadows.  He sat down in a dignified manner, in a position superior to Nobunaga's.

Nobunaga pretended not to notice.  Or rather, he feigned indifference while toying with his fan.  Dōsan glanced to the side.  There was no rule governing how a father-in-law should speak to this son-in-law.  He held his own and was silent.  The atmosphere was tense.  Needles seemed to prick at Dōsan's brow.  Doku, finding the strain unbearable, drew near Nobunaga's side and bowed his head all the way to the tatami.

"The gentleman seated over there is Lord Saitō Dōsan.  Would you care to greet him, my lord?"

Nobunaga said, "Is that so?" and moved his back from the pillar and straightened up.  He bowed once and said, "I am Oda Nobunaga.  It's a pleasure to meet you."

With Nobunaga's change of posture and salutation, Dōsan's manner softened as well.  "I've long hoped that we could meet.  I'm happy that I could realize this long-cherished desire today."

"This is something that gladdens my heart, as well.  My father-in-law is getting old, but he is making his way through life in good health."

"What are you talking about, getting old?  I've just reached sixty this year, but I don't feel at all old.  You're still a chick just out of the egg! Ha, ha!  The prime of manhood begins at sixty."

"I'm happy to have a father-in-law I can rely on."

"In any case, this is a blessed day.  I hope the next time we meet, you will show me the face of a grandchild."

"With pleasure."

"My son-in-law is openhearted! Tango!"

"Yes, my lord."

"Let's eat."

[After being served elaborate fare and making appropriate toasts, the conversation took an amiable turn.]

"Ah, I remember!" Nobunaga blurted out suddenly, as though something had just come to mind.  "Lord Dōsan - father-in-law - on my way here today, I came across a really odd fellow."

"How might that be?"

"Well, he was a funny old man who looked just like you, and he was peeking out at my procession from the broken window of a commoner's house.  Though this is my first meeting with my father-in-law, when I first saw you, well...you looked exactly like him.  Now isn't that strange?"  As he laughed, Nobunaga hid his mouth behind his half-opened fan.

Dōsan was quiet, as though he had drunk bitter soup.... When the meal was over, Nobunaga said, "Well, I've over-stayed my welcome.  I'd like to cross the Hida River and get to tonight's lodging before sunset, I beg your leave."

"You're leaving now?" Dōsan stood up with him.  "I'm reluctant to see you go, but I'll go with you that far."  He, too, had to get back to his castle before nightfall.

The forest of eighteen-foot spears put their backs to the evening sun and marched off to the east.  Compared with them, the spearmen of Mino looked short and lacking in spirit.

"Ah, I don't want to live much longer.  The day will come when my children go begging for life from that fool!  Yet it can't be helped," Dōsan tearfully told his retainers as he jostled along in his palanquin.

Transcription of Scroll

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

click on scroll to enlarge
32 Oda Nobunaga 織田信長
教導立志基 卅二 織田信長 小林清親 1885年12月25日
Transcription: [scroll text by 浅艸橋畔 柳窓]
“天文十八年春 信長齋藤道三と濃州富田の正法寺に會す 信長道三の威を奪んと行列を異様にし自ら亦奇異の出立して往く 道三其行装を見んと民家乃内より伺ふて笑ふ 信長?視(睨視?)して 我姿を見んと思ハゞ前へ出よ 無禮ハ寛す と大音に呼で過ぐ 道三驚き正法寺に歸り對面す 信長装束を改坐に着 道三の面を見て 先に町口にて我を笑たる曲者に能も似給ける と嘲(あざけり)けれバ道三其眼力の強に驚歎せりと 浅艸橋畔 柳窓 演”

天文十八年春 18 Tenbun era (1549) spring; 正法寺 Shobo-ji temple

Variant Edition and Later Reissue with White Border

Variant printing
Image from Tokyo Metropolitan Library 280-K012
1902 reprint

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.

One of Five Prints from The Lavenberg Collection

loaned to the Portland Art Museum for the exhibition

"Legendary Samurai" September 14, 2013 to January 12, 2014

小林 清親画 教導立志基・ 織田信長

Kobayashi Kiyochika
(Japanese, 1847–1915)

Oda Nobunaga
From Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition
Color woodblock print
Lent by The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints

Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) was a military commander of exceptional ambition and vision whose conquests of neighboring domains in central Japan began the process of unifying the country after a century of civil war. As a youth, his leadership of the Oda clan was contested by his younger brothers. Growing up with constant threats on his life, he adopted bizarre costumes and behavior as a strategy to lead others to underestimate him.

In the scene illustrated here, Nobunaga is on his way to meet his future father-in-law, the notoriously ruthless Saitō Dōsan. Nobunaga looks the part of a fool in flamboyant tiger-skin chaps, but his prudence and forethought are evident in the size of his entourage—800 men—and their modern weapons, including 18-foot spears and 500 arquebuses, a type of gun recently introduced to Japan by the Portuguese.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Oda Nobunaga 織田信長
 Series“Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition” (Kyodo risshiki 教導立志基) [note: seriestitle 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 ofEmulation”' or “Examples of Self-made Leaders” or "Paragons of instruction and success"] 
 Artist  Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915)
Shinsei Kiyochika 真生清親
 Seal  not sealed
 Publication Date December 25, 1885 明治十八年 廿五日
 PublisherMatsuki Heikichi (松木平吉) proprietor of Daikokuya Heikichi [Marks: seal not shown; pub. ref. 029]

click to enlarge
(from right to left)
publishing and printing date: 御届 明治十八年 廿五日 
[notification delivered, Meiji 18 12th month 25th day]
assigned number within series: 卅二 [32]
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; minor foxing primarily left margin; minor marks
 Genre ukiyo-e; rishki-e; kyōiku nishiki-e
 Miscellaneous  print number 32 (卅二); position 32 in the Table of Contents for the series.  Previously loaned to the Portland Art Museum for "Legendary Samurai".  Portland Art Museum loan number L2013.80.2.
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper
 14 1/4 x 10 in. (36.2 x 25.4 cm)
 H x W Image
 12 3/8 x 8 1/8 in. (31.4 x 20.6 cm) area inside brocade border
Japan Awakens: Woodblock Prints of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Barry Till, Pomegranate Communications, Inc., 2008, p. 45.
 Collections This Print
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria AGGV 2007.021.002; Tokyo Metropolitan Library 280-K012 (with variant color border); The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-3018 (with variant color border)