Although Minamoto no Yoshitsune had performed meritorious services in the destruction of the Heike clan, he fell out with his brother, Minamoto no Yoritomo. Yoshitsune found himself with no choice other than to escape with his trusted followers, including Benkei, to Hiraizumi in the Ōshū region and turn to Fujiwara no Hidehira, who was a supporter of Yoshitsune. He and his followers are disguised as mountain priests and reach the barrier at Ataka in Kaga, one of the barriers newly established by Yoritomo, who has heard rumors about the group of pseudo-mountain priests and is trying to capture them. At the Ataka Barrier, they meet the barrier master, Togashi.
Benkei, who wants to pass the barrier at all costs, lies to the barrier officer that they are a group of mountain ascetic priests collecting donations for the reconstruction of Todaiji Temple. Togashi, the barrier master, is suspicious of them and compels Benkei to read the kanjinchō – a letter of intent for constructing or repairing temples – which proves that they actually are fund-raising monks for Todaiji Temple. Benkei then perfectly reads a scroll as if he is reading a real kanjinchō. Overwhelmed by his vigor, Togashi initially allows them to pass through the barrier. However, he notices Yoshitsune, who is disguised as a porter. Thinking quickly, Benkei suddenly reproaches Yoshitsune for bringing suspicion upon the entourage and beats Yoshitsune with his stout staff. Overwhelmed by Benkei’s determination, Togashi lets them pass.
To apologize for his disrespectful behavior at the barrier, after the group has finally passed through the barrier, Togashi later catches up with the group of Yoshitsune and Benkei. Togashi then starts to drink with them. Since Benkei suspects that Togashi might be trying to entrap them, he exercises vigilance while performing the Ennen-no-mai(a dance performed at temples for peace and longevity). Then, the group led by Yoshitsune and Benkei takes leave of the people at the barrier and immediately leaves to escape to Mutsu Province.
Adapted from The Noh
The Woodblock Prints
This oban diptych is in good/very good condition. The prints themselves are in very good condition with little to no edgewear, very strong colors, bleed through and perceptible wood grain. The flaw in them is that, due to prior framing, there is a discoloration strip along the tops and bottoms where the paper was behind the matting, and the matting discolored the paper. This discoloration is very faint (you can see in the images), but it is there, so it brings down our rating. We don’t believe that it diminishes the visual aspects of the prints, and can either be hidden behind a new frame or left as it is as it’s uniform between the two obans.
A rare oban in beautiful condition and the complete diptych.
About the Artist
Tsukioka Kōgyo (月岡 耕漁, Tsukioka Kōgyo), sometimes called Kōgyo Sakamaki (坂巻 耕漁, Sakamaki Kōgyo), was a Japanese artist of the Meiji period (April 18, 1869 – February 25, 1927). He was a student and adopted son of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, and also studied with Ogata Gekkō. Although Kōgyo sometimes painted other subjects, most of his career centered around pictures of Japanese noh theatre, either as large-scale paintings or colored woodblock prints. Many of the latter were published in series and sold as multi-volume sets. Some sets, such as Nōgaku zue, have been preserved as albums in their original bindings, including accordion-style bindings known as orihon, while other sets such as Nōga taikan, were issued in sewn bindings known as yamato toji.
Unlike most ukiyo-e prints, his works have an almost painterly quality and use gold and silver for the Noh costume embellishments. Kogyo’s woodblock prints required very skilled engravers and printers to produce. Kogyo died in Tokyo at the age of 58.