Shooting the Giant Centipede

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts: Picture of Fujiwara Hidesato Shooting the Giant Centipede at the Dragon King's Palace
(Shingata sanjurokkaisen: Fujiwara no Hidesato Ryugujo goko o iru no zu)

signed Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Yoshitoshi, carver's seal Hori Yu, and publisher's date seal Meiji nijusannen, hachigatsu, nijunika; Sasaki Toyokichi (Meiji 23 [1890], August 22) of Sasaki Toyokichi

oban tate-e 14 1/2 by 9 3/4 in., 36.8 by 24.9 cm

Fujiwara Hidesato, a counselor of Emperor Shujaku (922-952), prepares to fire an arrow at a giant centipede. Historically, Hidesato was a kuge (court bureaucrat) remembered for foiling the 940 revolt of Taira Masakado (d. 940). According to legend, Hidesato was approached by Ryujin, the Dragon King, while crossing the Seta Bridge of Lake Biwa. Upon hearing Ryujin tell of a monstrous insect that was menacing his underwater palace, the archer agreed to help the Dragon King, and together they descended into beneath the lake. Ryujin, Hidesato, and the King's daughter Princess Oto feasted luxuriously until the monster's encroachment began shaking the palace. Hidesato rushed to the palace balcony and fired two shots, neither of which could pierce the centipede's armored hide. Remembering the power of saliva, Hidesato licked his third arrow and drove it fast and true into the beast. The creature was no more, and Hidesato was rewarded with a bottomless bag of rice, a never-ending bolt of cloth, a self-heating cooking pot, and a large bronze bell. He is said to have given the bronze bell to Mii Temple, from which it was stolen by the infamous Benkei (1155-1189) two hundred years later, while the rice earned him the nickname Tawara Toda ('Lord Rice-Bag').

Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 106

Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 489, no. 509.15
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's Thirty-Six Ghosts, 1983, p. 54, no. 18
Shinichi Segi, Yoshitoshi the Splendid Decadent, 1985, p. 79, no. 47
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, p. 142, no. 65.15
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's Strange Tales, 2005, p. 118, no. 18



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site last updated
September 22, 2022

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