new forms of thirty six ghosts

The Ghost of Okiku at Sarayashiki, from the series New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts

Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892)
Publisher: Sasaki Toyokichi
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Japan
1890
Meiji era
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

“At first glance we see the selfless act of a samurai carrying a woman across a river on his back. Look more closely and the print reveals clues to its true meaning. The hero, Omori Hikoshichi - a samurai from the 14th century - is persuaded by a young woman to carry her across a stream. Halfway across Hikoshichi looks down and sees the reflection of a demon’s horns - a hanya demon - in the water in front of him. Yoshitoshi has pictured the moment; we see the reflection of the horns and we see the troubled expression on Hikoshichi’s face as his right hand reaches beneath his robes and prepares to draw his sword.

There are two explanations for the story, the first is straightforward - Hikoshichi draws his sword and slays the demon just in time. The second is not supernatural and tells the story of the daughter of the defeated warlord Kusonoki Masashige seeking retribution for her father’s suicide, putting on a hanya mask before exacting revenge. I am inclined to believe that Yoshitoshi is referring to the former since the subject matter for the series is supernatural and the girl is not holding the mask from which we see the reflection. It is common in Japanese prints for the ghostly aspect of a character to be revealed through the use of mirrors, shadows and reflections.”

「新形三十六怪撰」 「大森彦七道に怪異に逢ふ図」

Omori Hikoshichi

Series: New Forms of Thirty Six Ghosts, No. 5

-Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年)

[The Hell Courtesan was depicted by the artist] Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839 - 1892), in the design entitled The Enlightenment of Jigoku Dayū (Jigoku dayū godo no zu) of 1890, from the series New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts (Shinkei sanjurokkaisen). It is evening, and she is shown seated beside a tall candle-stand before a procession of skeletons that are walking beneath a parasol that lacks its paper cover and consists only of its basic skeletal form.

The ghost of wicked genta Yoshihira attacking Namba Jiro at Nunobiki waterfall, from the series New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts

Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892)
Publisher: Sasaki Toyokichi
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Japan
1889
Meiji era
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery