All History Painting

Utagawa Kuniyoshi | Battle at Gojo Bridge

There is an amazing show of Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s woodblock prints at the Japan Society on East 47th St. Go now, as the show closes June 13th.

One of my favorites from the the collection:

 

Ushiwaka and Benkei fighting on Gojo bridge, published c.1839 by by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection

Ushiwaka and Benkei fighting on Gojo bridge, published c.1839 by by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection

 

The legendary warrior monk Saitō Musashibō Benkei dedicated himself to collecting 1,000 weapons for the Buddha by challenging every swordsman crossing the Gojo Bridge in Kyoto. On his thousandth duel, he fought Minamoto no Yoshitsune then only in his teens. Yoshitsune, who was called Ushiwaka in his youth, defeated Benkei, making him his vassal, and the old monk became the devoted servant of Ushiwaka.

The two became warriors of legend until Benkei’s death at the siege of Koromogawa, where he died standing on the bridge to the castle protecting Yoshitsune as the latter committed suicide inside. Benkei was so renowned and had killed so many men that day, that the soldiers dared not cross the bridge to challenge him. It was only until his body fell over that they realized that he had been dead for some time.

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