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Kusunoki Masashige from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Kusunoki Masashige

from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

by Mizuno Toshikata, 1888

Arai Hakuseki from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

IHL Cat. #965

About This Print

Source: Warriors of Japan as Portrayed in the War Tales, Paul Varley, University of Hawaii Press, 1994, p. 181-182 and as footnoted.

Print number 廿一 [21]1 from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition picturing the 14th century warrior Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336) seated outside Shitenno-ji Temple 四天王寺 reading a scroll, likely
the Miraiki みらいき, a chronicle foretelling the future and attributed to Prince Shōtoku.  The Miraiki proved influential in 14th and 15th-century politics, as many of its prognostications proved true.2  A Buddhist monk sits beside Kusunoki and the large pine tree in the background may allude to the deposed emperor Godaigo's famous dream that foretells of his reigning again as the true emperor.  After the dream Godaigo combines the character for "south" with that for "tree," producing kusunoki, or camphor tree.  Kusunoki a warrior "famous as a wielder of bow and arrow," is then summoned from nearby Kawachi province.  Kusunoki pledges to dedicate his life to restoring Godaigo's "imperial destiny."

The scroll makes reference to Kusunoki's lineage, stating that he is descended from the Tachibanas who are descended from the 6th century Emperor Bidatsu.  Historians, however, state there is little "historical certainty" about his lineage. 

The artist Mizuno Toshikata contributed 16 prints to this series.

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.  

2 From Sovereign to Symbol: An Age of Ritual Determinism in Fourteenth Century Japan, Thomas Donald Conlan, Oxford University Press,201, p. 197.

About Kusunoki Masashige

Source: Warriors of Japan as Portrayed in the War Tales, Paul Varley, University of Hawaii Press, 1994, p. 181-182, 192-199.
Kusunoki Masashige [is considered the most admired of Japan's warrior heroes.  Through the ages "Masashige was apotheosized as a godly embodiment of the highest values of imperial loyalism.  Schoolchildren looked up to him above all others, and kamikaze pilots in World War II held him as the supreme model of how to die purely and beautifully for the emperor."  Kusunoki was to die at the Battle of Minatogawa, a battle that he knew beforehand would lead to his certain death, fighting the Ashikaga army opposed to Godaigo.  After his followers are decimated by the vastly superior Ashikaga forces, Masashige and his brother Masasue commit suicide by stabbing each other.

As Japan's most admired warrior, legends abound about Kusunoki's exploits.  The most commonly pictured incident from his life is Kusonoki's parting speech to his son at Sakura Station on his way to the Battle of Minatogawa.  At Sakura he tells his eleven year old son Masatsura "I feel this is the last time I will see your face in this life."  He orders him  to return home to Kawachi to continue the family line and to support the emperor until death, ending by saying "This will be your most important filial duty to me.".

Transcription of Scroll

A scroll, present on each print in the series, contains brief historical details of the figure and scene being portrayed.

click on image to enlarge
Source: with thanks to Yajifun http://yajifun.tumblr.com/

21 Kusunoki Masashige 楠正成
教導立志基 廿一 楠正成 水野年方 1888年8月
“楠氏本姓は橘氏 人皇三十一代敏達天皇より出(いづ)後裔降りて河内に居る者 楠を以て氏とす 始て後醍醐天皇の時に著(あらハ)る 勅を奉じ志を決して王寺す 楠氏亡びて後二百有餘(有余)年 徳川源光圀 湊川に石を立て 嗚呼忠臣楠氏の墓 と記す 茲に描くハ四天王寺に蔵する識文(みらいき)を僧に請ふて視 衆に諭して奮厲(奮励)さするの圖(図)なり 宜く知る處(処)をして講議あらん事を乞 版元 述”

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 Kusunoki Masashige 楠正成
 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  Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908)
応斎年方 ōju Toshikata [by request Toshikata]
 Seal  Ōsai Toshikata 応斎年方 seal as shown above 
 Publication Date August 1888 明治廿一 八 月 日印刷出版
 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: 明治廿年 月  刷 
[notification delivered, Meiji 21 8th month]
assigned number within series: 廿 [21]
publisher information:    両国吉川町二番地  松木平吉
[publisher and printer Ryōgoku Yoshikawachō 2-banchi Matsuki Heikichi]
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - unbacked; full size; minor soiling within image; stain in upper left of margin
 Genre ukiyo-e; rishki-e; kyōiku nishiki-e
 Miscellaneous print number 21 (廿); position 21 in the Table of Contents for the series
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper
 14 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (35.9 x 23.5 cm)
 H x W Image
 12 5/8 x 8 1/8 in. (32.1 x 20.6 cm) area inside brocade border
 Collections This Print
Tokyo Metropolitan Library 280-K17; British Museum 1906,1220,0.1814 (color variant)