At the command of Emperor Ichijo (980-1011), who received an oracle in a dream, Tachibana no Michinari visits and orders Sanjō no Kokaji Munechika, a renowned swordsmith, to forge a sword. Munechika insists that he cannot forge the sword because he does not have a partner swordsmith, who is as skillful as Munechika; Michinari however refuses to accept his request. Munechika, who is caught between a rock and a hard place, visits Inari Shrine where he prays and requests the assistance of the guardian deity of his clan. At the shrine, a mysterious boy calls to him. The boy encourages Munechika by talking about the dignity of a sword in a Chinese legend and the story of Yamato Takeru-no-mikoto. He promises to become Munechika’s smithing partner and disappears in Mount Inari.
When Munechika goes home, dresses himself for smithing and prays on his platform, there appears before him the deity of Inari who transforms into the spirit of a fox. The deity announces that he will work as the partner of Munechika. The boy who appeared a moment earlier was the transformed Inari deity himself. Munechika, who gained the deity as the smithing partner, successfully forges a sword. Finally, the noted sword “Kogitsune-maru” which is engraved with two names – “Kokaji Munechika” on the face and “Kogitsune (Little Fox)” on the back of the blade as a proof that the deity apprenticed himself to Munechika – is completed. After offering the sword to the imperial messenger, the deity rides on a cloud to return to the peak of Mount Inari.
The Woodblock Print
This woodblock print is in excellent condition; rich colors, no discolorations in the paper, clear verso, and fully intact margins.
About the Artist
Hideki Hanabusa (1914-?) specialized almost exclusively in scenes from the Noh drama and the Bunraku Puppet Drama, and was mainly active as a painter mainly between circa 1950-70s.