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Nōgakuzue, Tsuchigumo


 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Tsuchigumo 土蜘蛛

(Earth Spider)

from the series Nōgakuzue

by Tsukioka Kōgyo, 1897

Nōgakuzue, Kurama Tengu

IHL Cat. #1144

About This Print

One of 261 prints from the series Nōgakuzue (Illustrations of Noh).  The print depicts a scene from the play Tsuchigumo in which Minamoto Raikō's retainers led my Hitorimusha rush to confront a monstrous spider in the guise of a monk who has attacked their lord.  (See story below.)

For another depiction of this play by the artist see Nōgaku hyakuban, Tsuchigumo.

For background on the Noh theater see the article on this site "Noh - A Brief Summary by Beata Kubiak Ho-Chi".

The Play - Tsuchigumo (Earth Spider)

Source: The Noh.com website http://www.the-noh.com/en/plays/data/program_002.html
The servant Kochō comes bringing prescribed medicine to Minamoto no Raikō, who is ill in bed.  However, his illness becomes more and more serious.

Deep in the night after Kochō leaves, an unknown monk visits the bedridden Raikō and inquires about his condition. Suspicious, Raikō asks the name of the monk, and the monk approaches Raikō reciting a poem in the Kokin-shū, "my love will visit me tonight, because a spider…"  Looking closely, Raikō finds that it is a monstrous spider. Although the spider spins out thousands of silk threads to tie Raikō up, from his pillow side Raikō takes the great sword Hiza-maru, which has been passed down within the Genji clan. When he draws the sword and cuts the monster, the spider monk disappears instantly.

Hitorimusha, a warrior who serves Raikō, hears the commotion and rushes to Raikō's room with many of his followers.  Raikō tells about the event and announces that he will change the name of the great hereditary sword from Hiza-maru to Kumokiri (Spider Slasher).  Then Raikō tells Hitorimusha to exterminate the monstrous spider as he could not give it a death blow.

Hitorimusha and other servants follow the blood spots of the monstrous ground spider to an old mound, which seems to be the nest of the spider.  The ground spider appears when they demolish the mound.  The ground spider gives them trouble with its silk threads.  However, Hitorimusha's entourage encircle it in strength and finally slay it. 

Author: Unknown. 

Source: A Guide to No, P.G. O'Neill, Hinoki Shoten, 1929, p. 198-199.


Act 1:
Tsure - Minomoto no Yorimitsu (Raikō)
Tsure - his swordbearer
Tsure - Kochō, a serving-woman
Shite - a priest
Waki - the warrior Hitori-musha 
Kyōgen - a messenger

Act 2:
Waki - Hitori-musha
Waki-tsure - his men
Nochi-shite - a ground-spider

After the serving-woman has brought the sick Minamoto no Yorimitsu some medicine, a spider comes to him in the guise of a priest.  But when it begins to enmesh Yorimitsu in the threads of a web, he realizes that it is some evil creature and manages to slash it with his sword.  At this it vanishes but Hitori-musha, alarmed by his master's cries, hurries to the scene and after hearing what has taken place, determines to hunt out the creature.  He and his men track it down by following the trail of blood to a cave and there they destroy the spider that has been the cause of Yorimitsu's illness.

Right Margin Description of Scene
click on image to enlarge

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1144
 Title Tsuchigumo 土蜘蛛 (Earth Spider)
 Series Nōgakuzue 能樂圖繪 (Illustrations of Noh)
 Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927)
 Kōgyo 耕漁
White letter seal in a square shape: 年久/之印 [Toshihisa / no in]
Toshihisa no in (seal of Toshimisa), seal no. 39, p. 171 in The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), Robert Schaap & J. Thomas Rimer, Hotei Publishing, 2010.
 DateThis collection's print was issued September 5, 1897 as shown in the print's left margin, as follows: 
Date of Printing: September 1, 1897 (Meiji 30)
Date of Issuance: September 5, 1897

The ARC database entry for their print arcUP0870 carries different dates from this collection's print, as follows: 
Printed on January 1, 1901; Issued on January 5, 1901
 Edition unknown 
 Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya Heikichi 大黒屋平) [Marks: pub. ref. 029]
 日本橋区吉川町二番地 松木平吉 (in left margin) followed by Daikokuya seal,  as shown on left.  
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - album backing; full size, light soiling
 Genre nishiki-e; nōgaku zue 能樂圖繪 [Noh play picture] or 能絵 [Noh-e]
 Miscellaneous gold and silver mica highlights in earth spider's robe
 Format oban yoko-e
 H x W Paper 9 13/16 x 14 7/16 in. (24.9 x 36.7 cm)
 H x W Image
 9 x 13 1/8 in. (22.9 x 33.3 cm) area within printed black border
 Collections This PrintArt Institute of Chicago 1939.2258.38 [date noted as 1898]; Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University AcNo.arcUP0870 CoGNo.arcUP0840 AlGNo.arcUP0840; University of Pittsburgh 20091209-kogyo-0190
 Reference Literature The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), Robert Schaap & J. Thomas Rimer, Hotei Publishing, 2010, pl. 65a, p. 117.