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Isshunsai YOSHIKAZU (一春齋國員)

Bunji gannen kugatsu jûshichinichi Rokujô Horikawa youchi no zu (Night Attack at Horikawa in Rokujô on the 17th Day of the 9th Month, 1185: 文治元年九月十七日六條堀河夜討之圖)
Ichijusai Yoshikazu ga (一寿芳員画)
Censors' seals: Hama Yahei (浜弥兵衛) and Magome Kageyu (馬込勘解由)
Tamaya Sôsuke (玉屋惣助)
c. 1847-52
(H x W)
ôban nishiki-e triptych
37.5 x 75.5 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; light horizontal centerfolds and filled binding holes (along top) of all sheets, a few re-inforced lower corners and left edge of L sheet
Price (USD/¥):
$1,150/ Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry (Ref #YKZ03)


The Edo-born Isshunsai Yoshikazu (一春齋芳員) was active circa 1850-70. A pupil of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川國芳 1798-1861), he sometimes signed as Utagawa Yoshikazu (歌川芳員). His given names were Jirobei (次郎兵衛) and Jirokichi (次郎吉), and he used various (artist pseudonyms: 號), including Isshunsai (一春齋), Issen (一川), and Ichijusai (一寿斎). He is known primarily for his Yokohama-e (Yokohama prints: 横浜絵), focusing on foreigners and their customs, and producing at least 116 prints out of the roughly 800 known Yokohama-e by all artists in that genre. He also produced fûkeiga (landscapes: 風景画), musha-e (warrior prints: 武者絵), and more than twenty ehon (woodblock-printed illustrated books: 絵本).

After the Battle at Dannoura (Dannoura no tatakai: 壇ノ浦の戦い) on April 25, 1185 in which Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝 1147-99) and his half-brother Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源義経 1159–1189) defeated the Taira (Heike 平家) clan, Yoritomo, who would become the first shôgun of Japan, became unjustly suspicious of the brilliant military exploits of his younger brother. Yoritomo was also wary of Yoshitsune's close association with the retired Emperor Goshirakawa (後白河 1127-92; r. 1155-58). Yoritomo refused to allow Yoshitsune entry into the headquarters at Kamakura, and instead sent him off to Horikawa in Kyoto. In 10/1185, Yoritomo ordered an attack against Yoshitsune at the Minamoto mansion situated at the intersection of Horikawa and Rokujû (六条) avenues in Kyoto (often referred to as the "Night Attack at Horikawa," Horikawa youchi, 堀川夜討). Yoritomo's plot was to secretly dispatch the warrior monk Tosa-bô Shôshun (土佐坊昌俊) and around 60 other fighters to assassinate Yoshitsune, but they were defeated, and Tosa-bô captured and beheaded. Knowing that Yoritomo had ordered the attack, Yoshitsune secured imperial authorization to ally himself with his uncle Minamoto no Yukiie (源行家 1145-1186) and oppose his older brother. On the 29th, Yoritomo led an operation to expel Yoshitsune, one of several military operations meant to capture Yoshitsune. Ultimately, after more than three years of flight and skirmishes, Yoshitsune was trapped by 500 warriors against his meager contingent of 20 fighters, whereupon he committed seppuku (lit., "incision of the abdomen," or ritual suicide: 切腹) rather than face capture in a final battle at Koromogawa on June 15, 1189.

The incident, recounted in Heike monogatari (Tale of The Heike: 平家物語), Genpei Seisuiki (Rise and Fall of the Genji and the Heike: 源平盛衰記), and Giheiki (Chronicle of Yoshitsune: 義経記), was illustrated in musha-e (warrior pictures: 武者絵) by various ukiyo-e artists, especially in Edo. There was also a play titled Gosho zakura Horikawa no youchi (Imperial Palace Cherry Blossoms and the Horikawa Night Attack: 御所櫻堀川夜討) written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the first lunar month of 1737 at the Takemoto-za, Osaka. It was adapted for kabuki many years later when it was given in the fourth lunar month of 1762 at the Naka Theater, Osaka.


This musha-e by Yoshikazu is a mainstream design representative of various artists from the Utagawa school in Edo, and comparable to some of the war triptychs by Kuniyoshi. As is so often the case with many-figured, full-on battle scenes such as this one, samurai clash on foot and on horseback, individually or in groups, battling with swords and lances (naginata: 長刀 or 薙刀). The ground is littered with broken arrows, standards, abandoned weapons, and, of course, dead and wounded warriors. Smoke and flames begin to engulf the mansion, adding to the chaos. Amplifying the impact of this deadly melée are the grimacing faces and belligerent postures that signal the ferocity of the battle. On some later impressions of this design, dark brown plumes of smoke partly obscure the figures on the balcony depicted on the right sheet, and the warriors on the lower parts of the middle and left sheets.

The warrior riding the horse on the right sheet is the saga's legendary hero, here named Kurô Hôgan Minamoto no Yoshitsune (九郎判官源義経). The samurai brandishing the naginata in the lower part of the center sheet is Eda Genzô Hirotsuna (江田源蔵弘綱), a vassal of Yoshitsune. Although he is shown here subduing his foes, Eda would later die during the battle. As he lay mortally wounded, he asked for Yoshitsune's forgiveness, having earlier failed to bring Tosa-bô Shôshun into custody to face Yoshitsune. In a moment of anger, Yoshitsune had cast out his loyal follower, but Eda still fought for his lord. Realizing that he could never have truly cast off Eda, Yoshitsune made amends before his valiant ally died, having been struck down by a single arrow. On the left sheet, Yoshitsune's celebrated warrior monk and companion Masashibô Benkei (武蔵坊弁慶) is shown dressed in black and holding an enormous lance. He is pursuing the enemy monk Tosa-bô Shôshun (土佐坊昌俊) who is mounted on a galloping horse farthest away at the top left corner of the left sheet.

Two other impressions of this design are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Acc #00.1413, 00.1414, 00.1418; and #11.37667a-c).


  1. King, James and Iwakiri, Yuriko: Japanese Warrior Prints 1646-1905. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2007, pp. 142-143 and 174-175.
  2. Lane, Richard: Images of the Floating World: The Japanese Print. New York: Dorset Press, 1978/1982, p. 348, fig. 728.
  3. Newland, Amy Reigle (general ed.): The Hotei encyclopedia of Japanese woodblock prints, vol. 2. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005, vol. I, p. 268, no. 202, and vol. II, p. 505 (entry by Sepp Linhart).
  4. Shirahara, Yukiko (ed.): Japan Envisions the West: 16th-19th Century Japanese Art from Kobe City Museum. Seattle Art Museum and Kobe City Museum, 2007, pp. 210-213, nos. 170-171.
  5. Yonemura, Ann: Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution/Sackler Gallery, 1990, pp. 62-63, 69, 79, 92-97, 99, 101-102, 115-117, 134-135, 138, 142-143, 146-151, 157, 162, 168-169, fig. 20 and nos. 7, 10, 17-20, 22, 24-25, 36-38, 48, 52, 54, 58-60, 64, 66, 71.