Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, Biwa Player, Music, Sengoku Period, Samurai

japanese art authenticityAuthenticity Guaranteed

Original Japanese woodblock print. 

Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: Uesugi Kenshin and the Blind Biwa Player
Publisher: Sugiyama
Date: 1893


biwa hoshi musician, also known as a blind lute priest, performs for the warlord Uesgui Kenshin (1530 – 1578) and his retainers. Kenshin is seated on a decorative cushion on the right hand side, and holds a fan whilst contemplatively listening to the music. The lute priests were patronised by Japan’s unifier Tokugawa Ieyasu and specialised in performing narratives from Japan’s epic war story the Tale of Heike, an account of the battles between the Minamoto and Taira clan in the 12th century.


Here, the performer recounts the story of the slaying of Nue, a legendary demon which appears in the Tale of Heike. The eerie appearance of the Nue shrieking and enveloped in a thick black smog frightens the Emperor Konoe (1139 – 1155) into ill health. The warrior Minamoto no Yorimasa (1106–1180) is called upon to slay it using an arrow from his ancestor and the tail feathers of a mountain bird. Yorimasa shoots it out of the sky and is then rewarded with the Shishio sword for restoring the emperor’s health. Hearing such tales of past military exploits served to boost morale and became an important past time for the warrior class during periods of martial instability.

More Information
Artist Name Yoshitoshi Tsukioka
Title Uesugi Kenshin and the Blind Biwa Player
Subject Samurai & Male
Condition Report Backing. Prints once conjoined and now separated. Creases along right hand side of right print. Some faint smudges and thinning of paper on centre print.