Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, The Fox-Woman Kuzunoha, New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts


Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: The Fox-Woman Kuzunoha Leaving Her Child
Series: New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts
Publisher: Sasaki Toyokichi
Date: 1890
Size: 35.2 x 23.8 cm
Condition report: Trimmed, minor stains and spots, red pigment slightly smudged, restored on the left of the back.


A little boy tugs at the kimono of his fleeing mother, her mysteriously shaped face casts a shadow on the translucent paper of the sliding screens.


The woman is, in fact, is a fox (kitsune), a magical creature that can take the shape of a human being. She was once saved by the nobleman Abe no Yasuna when a group of men hunted the fox for her liver. Abe swiftly hid the creature in his robes and the group of chasers rushed on. Shortly after, Abe married a young woman named Kuzunoha. They had a child together and lived happily for three years. However, she suddenly disappeared from the palace, later appearing in a dream of Abe to tell him not to mourn her as she was not a human, but the fox he saved.


The poem she left to her husband reads:
'If you think of me with love
come seek me in the forest of Shinoda
and you will find a kudzu leaf (lit. kuzu-no-ha, a pun on her name)'


The true form of Kuzunoha appears in the shadow on the sliding door. It was thought that reflections and shadows reveal the true form of supernatural beings pretending to be human. Unable to stay with her loved ones, she leaves her child behind in order to return to her natural habitat - the forest.

More Information
Print Format Other
Artist Name Yoshitoshi Tsukioka
Title The Fox-Woman Kuzunoha Leaving Her Child
Subject Beauty & Female, Ghosts & Religion
Dimensions 35.2 x 23.8 cm
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.