Watanabe Tsuna Cutting Off the Demons Arm

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Picture of Watanabe Tsuna Cutting Off the Demon's Arm at the Rashomon
(Rashomon Watanabe no tsuna oniudekiri nno zu)

signed oju Yoshitoshi with artist's seal Taiso, with publisher's seal Hakkosha Kanda-ku Kajicho go-banchi Hasegawa Tsunejiro (Shimizuya Tsunejiro, ca. 1842-1904), ca. 1887

oban tate-e vertical diptych 29 1/4 by 9 7/8 in., 74.2 by 25 cm

The warrior Watanabe Tsuna (953-1025), lieutenant to the famous Minamoto Yorimitsu (Raiko, 948-1021), confronts the demon Ibaraki during a furious rainstorm at the Rashomon Gate of the Imperial palace in Kyoto. Ibaraki looms above the warrior, encircling one of the massive vermilion pillars as she prepares to launch her attack. Tsuna steadies his horse, which is bucking in alarm, and twists his torso to look skyward at the menacing demon. In one hand he holds a signpost inscribed Watanabe which had fallen in the tempest. Soon he will discard it for the more useful sword at his side, and cut off the demon's arm-earning the moniker Onikiri maru (lit. 'Demon cutter') for the sword.

The tales of the 11th-century Raiko and his lieutenants, set in a time of lawlessness and disorder, often elevate the human criminals and bandits they fought to demons and monsters. The monster, attempting to attack Tsuna from the upper sheet, could be seen as a metaphor for such nefarious, though human, characters.

References:
Keyes 1983, p. 487, no. 507
Segi 1985, p. 73, no. 92
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 87, no. 64
Akita Museum of Modern Art 1999, p. 33, no. 109
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2012, p. 137, no. 202
Iwakiri 2014, p. 148, no. 222

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