Shumenosuke Urabe Suetake

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

One Hundred Tales of China and Japan: Shumenosuke Urabe Suetake
(Wakan hyakumonogatari: Shumenosuke Urabe Suetake)

signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi ga, with publisher's seal Tsukiji Daikin (Daikokuya Kinnosuke), and combined censor and date seal Ushi-ni, aratame (year of the ox [1865], 2nd lunar month, examined)

oban tate-e 14 3/8 by 10 1/8 in., 36.6 by 25.7 cm

The following text is inscribed:

Sutake wa Raiko shitenno no ichinin nite banfu fudo no eiketsu nari. Aruyo shinobite sotomoni ideshini ayashino onna tatazumeri. Seni hane arite futokoroni ubugo o idaite nakuarisaru. Konoyono hitotomo omowarezu Suetake kore o hattato nirameba, katachi wa kieteusenikeru. Ko wa kore ubumeno kai to kikoeshi.
  Sumida Ryoko ki

Suetake was one of Raiko's four famous retainers and was considered by all to be a great hero. One night he went outside in disguise and encountered a strange woman. She had wings on her back and wept as she held a baby in her arms. As she did not seem like a person from the living world, Suetake glared at her and her image vanished. He heard later that she was the ghost of a pregnant woman.
  written by Sumida Ryoko

Shumenosuke Urabe Suetake (950?-1022?) was one of the four legendary lieutenants of Minamoto Yorimitsu. The four retainers were nicknamed the Shitenno (Four Heavenly Kings), after the gods of the Four Directions whose likenesses were emblazoned on temple gates. Suetake stands on his wooden geta, comfortably above the mucky water, and gazes down upon the apparition from beneath his straw hat. The emaciated woman is an ubume, the ghost of a pregnant woman who died in childbirth.

The story is taken from the 12th-century Anthology of Tales from the Past (Konjaku monogatari shu). In the 27th volume of that collection, Yorimitsu and the Shitenno come upon a river where the ubume resides and learn of how the spirit insists that anyone who tries to cross the river must carry her child to the far bank. When Suetake claims that he is not afraid, the Shitenno wage their armor that he could not complete the crossing. He leaves and upon meeting the ubume receives her baby and brings it back to the shore where, to his surprise, the 'baby' turns out to be a parcel of leaves. In spite of his having won the challenge, he rejects his winnings, insisting that the task was a simple one. The retainers commend him for his courage and consideration, and they continue on their way.

van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 100, no. 10.3
Stevenson 2005, p. 72, no. 22
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2012, p. 29, no. 20
Iwakiri 2014, p. 24, no. 28
Reider 2016, p. 34



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