print

The title of this print refers to a twelfth-century courtesan Tora Gozen. She was the mistress of Soga no Jūrō, the elder of two brothers who killed the lord Kudo in 1192 to avenge the death of their father. According to legend, when Jūrō successfully avenged his father’s death, Tora Gozen wept and her tears were transformed into rain, known as ‘Tora’s Rain’. Appropriately, the travellers here approaching the seaside station of Ōiso are caught in a heavy downpour.

Details

  • Catalogue text

    A group of travellers approaching the seaside station of Ōiso in Sagami Province (modern Kanagawa Prefecture) is caught in a summer downpour. The strength of the rain is expressed by the use of heavy black criss-crossing lines and emphasized by the sombre palette of greys and browns. Effective use is made of stripes of black and grey bokashi to depict the menacing skies, but the yellow of the sky and the pale light on the sea in the background suggests that this might just be a passing shower. The entrance to the station is marked by a tall pillar and wooden panels displaying government information, and the yellow mounds to the left of the road are rice-sheaves.
    Although in Hiroshige’s day Ōiso was an isolated village, during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) it housed a thriving brothel district that served the nearby capital, Kamakura. Ōiso was also famous as the home of Tora Gozen, a courtesan and mistress of Soga no Jūrō, the elder of two brothers who killed the lord Kudo in 1192 to avenge the death of their father. This historical incident became the enormously popular subject of countless retellings, in the form of dance performances and illustrated books, Nō dramas, Bunraku puppet plays and Kabuki performances. According to the legend, when Jūrō successfully avenged his father’s death Tora Gozen wept and her tears were transformed into rain, known as ‘Tora’s Rain’. Hiroshige is alluding to the popular belief that rain always falls on the anniversary of Jūrō’s death on 28 May.

    In: Pollard, Clare, Mitsuko Ito Watanabe, Landscape, Cityscape: Hiroshige Woodblock Prints in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2014)

Further reading

Pollard, Clare, Mitsuko Ito Watanabe, Landscape, Cityscape: Hiroshige Woodblock Prints in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2014), no.2, p. 40, illus. p. 40

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