Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, Sakurahime, Courtesan, Beauty, New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts


Original Japanese woodblock print. 

Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839 – 1892)
Title: 6. The Ghost of Seigen Haunting Sakurahime
Publisher: Sasaki Toyokichi
Date: 1889


Sakurahime was a famous courtesan, the most beautiful of her time. Seigen was the abbot of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. As Sakurahime was visiting the temple gardens one day, they became infatuated with each other. The resulting scandal led to Seigen abandoning his studies and Sakurahime giving up her position. Even so, their story ended in tragedy as Seigen was killed by Sakurahime’s outraged servant.


In this print, based on the play ‘Sakurahime’, Seigen’s ghost appears in the smoke from a sunken fire. The smoke blends into the pattern of the wood-grain in the sliding door behind. Sakurahime’s kimono is appropriately decorated with cherry blossoms, which, apart from their beauty, are a symbol for the transience of human life. The white hem of Sakurahime’s kimono is beautifully embossed.


(Based on ‘Yoshitoshi’s Thirty-Six Ghosts’ by John Stevenson)

More Information
Print Format Oban (Vertical)
Artist Name Yoshitoshi Tsukioka
Title The Ghost of Seigen Haunting Sakurahime
Subject Beauty & Female, Ghosts & Religion
Series New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts
Publisher Sasaki Toyokichi

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka was one of the leading figures in ukiyo-e during the Meiji era (1868-1912), and perhaps the greatest ukiyo-e artist among his contemporaries. Yoshitoshi’s style was dynamic and distinctive: he was known for experimentation in style and genre, as well as for his innovative works. No other artist had produced ghost prints or included a range of different subjects in a single series before he did.

The publishing of Yoshitoshi’s most popular, and possibly best, series 'One Hundred Aspects of the Moon' (Tsuki Hyakushi) commenced in 1885. Consisting of 100 prints, this series spanned a wide variety of subjects, such as warrior, animals, ghosts, natural phenomena, beauties and others. The artist’s early tendency for gore and horror was replaced by 100 images of lyricism, calm, spirituality and psychological depth. This series also seemed to mark Yoshitoshi’s artistic independence and departure from a traditional ukiyo-e style. 'Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners' (Fuzoku Sanju Ni So) is the series, in which Yoshitoshi’s new style, as seen in 'One Hundred Aspects', was successfully blended with the traditional ukiyo-e style. The series was published in 1888 and portrays different women. In 1889 another great series, called 'New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts' (Shinkei Sanju Rokkai) started to be published. In this series, images of apparitions, mostly based on folklore and plays, were depicted powerfully, imaginatively and very beautifully. This was, perhaps, a catharsis for the artist who claimed to have seen ghosts and strongly believed in supernatural beings.