Priest Nichiren Praying for the Restless Spirit of the Cormorant Fisherman

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Picture of the Priest Nichiren Praying for the Restless Spirit of the Cormorant Fisherman of the Isawa River
(Nichiren shonin isawagawa nite ukai no meikon o saido shitamau no zu)

highlighted with mica on the rippling waves and the cormorants, signed Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Taiso, carver's seal Yamamoto hokaku (assistant carver), publisher's seal shuppanjin Akiyama Buemon, and dated on the left margin Meiji juhachinen, kyugatsu, -ka (Meiji 18 [1885], September)

oban tate-e triptych 14 3/4 by 29 7/8 in., 37.5 by 76 cm

The Priest Nichiren (1222-1282) stands beside his disciple Nikko (1246-1333), praying for the ghost of the cormorant fisherman Kansaku by the Isawagawa river. In life, the fisherman had poached for fish in sacred waters. When discovered, the man was executed and his spirit was doomed to haunt the river. The ghost came to Nichiren in a dream, asking to be freed from his eternal bondage. When the Nichiren awoke, he and his disciple were on the shore, and immediately began praying for the tormented soul.

The story of Nichiren and the cormorant fisherman's ghost is the subject of both a kabuki play, Nichiren and the Waters of Dharma (Nichiren shonin minori no umi), and a Noh play, Cormorant Fishing (Ukai).

Keyes 1983, p. 458, no. 472
Segi 1985, pp. 86-87, no. 53
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 69, no. 49
Akita Museum of Modern Art 1999, p. 27, no. 86
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2012, p. 124, no. 183
Iwakiri 2014, pp. 94-95, no. 132


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site last updated
October 16, 2018

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475