Published in 1888 (Meiji 21), written by Kyokutei, published by Ryukoudo.
The Sessho-seki (殺生石, Sesshōseki), or “Killing Stone”, is a stone in the volcanic mountains of Nasu, an area of Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, that is famous for sulphurous hot springs. In Japanese mythology, the stone is said to kill anyone who comes into contact with it. In Japan, rocks and large stones in areas where volcanic toxic gases are generated are often named Sessho-seki (殺生石), meaning Killing Stone, and the representative of such stones is this one associated with the legend of Tamamo-no-Mae and the nine-tailed fox.
The stone is believed to be the transformed corpse of Tamamo-no-Mae, a beautiful woman who was exposed as a nine-tailed fox working for an evil daimyō plotting to kill Emperor Toba and take his throne. According to the otogi-zōshi, when the nine-tailed fox was killed by the famous warrior named Miura-no-suke, her body became the Sessho-seki. Later, a Buddhist priest called Genno stopped for a rest near the stone and was threatened by the spirit of Tamamo-no-Mae. Genno performed exorcism rituals and begged the spirit to consider her salvation. Tamamo-no-Mae relented and swore never to haunt the stone again.
While we don’t know the translation of this book, this is the back-story to much of the imagery found within based on the title.
This is a complete 2-volumes in very fine condition. Bindings and covers intact.
About the Artist
Ogata Gekkō (尾形月耕, 1859-1920) was a Japanese artist who is considered one of the great ukiyo-e woodblock print artists of the late 19th century. Born on November 25, 1859, in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), he was the son of a samurai family. Gekko studied under Kawanabe Kyosai and Taiso Yoshitoshi, two prominent ukiyo-e artists, during the Meiji period. Gekkō was self-taught in art and began by decorating porcelain and rickshaws, and designing flyers for the pleasure quarters. Around 1881 he took the surname Ogata at the insistence of a descendant of the painter Ogata Kōrin. He soon was designing prints and illustrating books and newspapers, but his talents soon caught the attention of publishers and collectors, and he started creating woodblock prints.
Gekko’s artwork reflected the changing times in Japan during the Meiji period, as the country opened up to the West and modernized rapidly. His prints often featured contemporary subjects, such as train stations, factories, and steamships, as well as historical scenes and traditional Japanese motifs. His style was characterized by bold outlines, strong contrasts, and vivid colors, which were achieved through the use of multiple woodblocks.
In addition to woodblock prints, Gekko also created paintings and illustrations. His work was exhibited both in Japan and overseas, including at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He was also a member of the Tokyo Bijutsu Club and the Japan Art Association.
Gekko was active in the Japanese art community and contributed to the development of the art form. He taught at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and was involved in the publication of the influential art magazine “Taiyo.” He also collaborated with other artists, such as Tsukioka Kogyo and Mizuno Toshikata, to create joint print series.
Gekko continued to create art until his death in 1920. His legacy as an artist was significant, as he was a pioneer in the development of the modern Japanese woodblock print. His works are held in collections around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.