Picture of the Gojō Bridge from the Chronicle of Yoshitsune

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Gallery 103

The smooth-faced youth Yoshitsune wears elevated wooden sandals, a staple of traditional attire that conveniently kept a wearer’s feet and clothing out of the muck or snow. Yoshitsune’s dramatic, airborne acrobatics suggest they haven’t slowed him down.

Benkei is a man shrouded in legend and imbued with superhuman strength. As one origin story goes, he was the son of a blacksmith’s daughter. As a baby he was huge and unruly; as a child he was the size of an adult. As an adult he was immense, with the strength of many men, and had a wild, restless nature. He was both a monk and a bandit before becoming Yoshitsune’s servant.

A brilliant fighter, Yoshitsune makes up for his youth and smaller size through speed and wit. In this dramatic scene, he has just thrown his fan in Benkei’s face to distract him. Yoshitsune ultimately prevails, and Benkei becomes his devoted assistant.

The story may be a legend, but the bridge where the battle happened was real—although it was rebuilt and renamed “Matsubara Bridge.” Another bridge nearby now bears the name Gojo Bridge. Yoshitoshi’s rendering is not necessarily an actual representation of the real bridge, old or new.

To create the gradation of the night sky, a technique called futairo bokashi was used. The printer would saturate a single wide brush with pigment on either end before applying it to the carved block of wood for the intended colors. Every color had its own block. Occasionally two brushes, each with a different color, were used.

The final composition is spread across three sheets of paper, but this preparatory drawing shows that originally it was planned as a diptych, using only two sheets. During the printing process, the artist produced drafts and submitted drawings to the carver with instructions. Read the More Story to learn more about the printing process.