Toshihide (1863 - 1925)
Benkei in a Boat
Series; Eighteen Honorable Men and Deeds
An illustration of the Noh play titled “Funa-Benkei” (Benkei in a Boat), a drama about Yoshitsune and his loyal retainer, warrior monk Benkei. After Yoshitsune and the Minamoto forces defeated the Taira at the naval battle of Dan-no-ura, the Taira commander Tomomori committed suicide by tying himself to an anchor and leaping into the sea. While Benkei and Yoshitsune are later sailing through Daimotsu Bay, a huge storm arises, caused by the vengeful ghosts of the Taira. Here, the spirit of Taira no Tomomori rises from his watery grave, gripping a naginata and dancing about, his long hair flowing over his shoulders and back. His skin is pale blue, a sign of his otherworldliness, and he wears a white patterned tunic over full hakama pants with a design of splashing waves. In the boat, Benkei clasps a string of prayer beads between his hands, praying for the safety of his companions. His entreaties are heard, and the fearful Taira ghosts disappear beneath the sea.