Kunichika Toyohara, Kabuki Play, Buddhism, Waterfall


Artist: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Nachi no Taki Chikai no Mongaku
Publisher: Kishida Chojiro
Date: 1896
Size: (L) 24.2 x 35.8 (C) 24.1 x 35.9 (R) 23.9 x 35.7 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


This print shows the monk Mongaku Shonin in repentance beneath a waterfall. The scene is based on the legend of Endo Morito, the secular name of Mongaku who was originally a samurai guard of the imperial family in Kyoto.


In his late teenage years, Morito fell in love with Kesa, the beautiful wife of his samurai colleague Watanabe Wataru. She rejected his persistent entreaties until one night she agreed to receive him in her house, where she said he would find her husband asleep in a room and could kill him. However, too late, Morito realised that the person he killed was actually the lady herself, who had put herself in her husband’s place to save her honour. Morito repented his evil ways and became a monk, assuming the new name of Mongaku. As a harsh penance, he prayed under the waterfall of Nachi in Kumano (today's Mie and Wakayama prefectures) in the freezing winter for twenty-one days, reciting incantations to the deity Fudo Myoo.

Kunichika Toyohara (1835 - 1900)

One of the last great masters of ukiyo-e, Kunichika was inspired by the plays, actors and customs of kabuki theatre. His colourful prints are records of a long lost, decadent underworld of Edo. As a young man, he studied with the ukiyo-e artist Chikanobu, from whom he received his artist name. He then apprenticed under Kunisada and began to produce actor prints in the Utagawa style, though he never used the Utagawa name. Unlike most artists of the period, he made use of strong reds and dark purples, often as background colours, rather than the softer colours that had previously been used. These new colours were made of aniline dyes imported in the Meiji period from Germany. When portraying people he only occasionally showed figures wearing Western dress, despite its growing popularity in Japan. He is also one of the best known artists to have designed a great number of prints featuring tattoos, a genre made popular earlier in Edo period by Kuniyoshi Utagawa.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistKunichika Toyohara (1835 - 1900)
SubjectMale & Female, Kabuki Theatre, Ghosts & Religion
Size(L) 24.2 x 35.8 (C) 24.1 x 35.9 (R) 23.9 x 35.7 cm
Condition Report Slightly trimmed, red pigment running, wormholes restored.