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The Moon's Invention - Hōzō Temple from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

The Moon's Invention - Hōzō Temple

(Tsuki no hatsumei - Hōzōin)

from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1891

IHL Cat. #80

About This Print

After mastering the art of spear fighting, the monk In'ei (1521-1607) invented a new spear with a crescent-shaped cross-blade and founded the Hōzōin School, named after his residence at Kofuku Temple in Nara. In this print, Yoshitoshi is suggesting how In'ei, gazing at the reflection of the moon in the water, might have been inspired to create the new spear.

An early, if not first, state of this print, with the wood grain of the woodblock clearly visible.

The Story Depicted in the Print as Told by John Stevenson

Source: Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, John Stevenson, Hotei Publishing, Netherlands 2001.
The Moon’s invention – Hōzō temple
tsuki no hatsumei - Hōzōin

Hōzōin is the name of a Buddhist temple in Nara, the ancient city south of Kyoto which from 710 to 784 was the capital of Japan.  In the second half of the sixteenth century the head priest of Hōzōin was a man named Kakuzenbō Hōin In’ei.  He came from a long line of kuge, lords who were attached to the imperial court rather than to a particular locality; this nobility was distinct from the feudal daimyō and had precedence over them at court.  In’ei developed new ways of fighting with a spear, and established a famous fencing school at the temple.  At least four of his descendants, all priests of the temple, continued the traditions of the Hōzōin school of spear fencing into the nineteenth century.

In’ei grasps a practice fencing spear which has a padded knob on the end rather than a point.  He leans forward to look at the faint reflection of the moon, so that it appears as if the spear has a crescent-shaped crosspiece.  Yoshitoshi is suggesting how the priest might have been inspired to create his most famous innovation, a spear with a viciously sharpened crosspiece, called a kamayari, literally “sickle-spear.”  This weapon was widely adopted in the civil wars of the sixteenth century.

Different flesh tones suggest In’ei’s musculature.  He has a scarf tied around his priest’s shaved head and his robes are tucked up as they would be for a fencing practice or for fighting – tucking up the robes is a convention in the Kabuki theater to indicate that violent action is about to take place.  The priest appears to be a powerful but gentle man.  Late in life he realized the contradictions of practicing martial arts and serving Buddha at the same time, and gave away all his weapons to a student named Nakamura Ichibei Naomasa.  He died in 1607 at the age of eighty-six.

There is little color in this design, which resembles an ink study.  Yoshitoshi’s drawing has been fast and confident, from the strong outlines of the robe to the wavy line of the spear’s reflection.  The rushes consist of bold, slashing lines, while thick, black strokes make up the riverbank.  The printer has set these off against a background of modulated grades of wash.

Image from Publisher's Bound Album (Issued shortly after Yoshitoshi's death)

About the Series "One Hundred Aspects of the Moon"
For details about this series which consists of one hundred prints with the moon as a unifying motif, see the article on this site Yoshitoshi, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #80
 Title The Moon's Invention - Hōzō Temple
(Tsuki no hatsumei - Hōzōin 都幾乃発明 宝蔵院)
 Series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (Tsuki hyaku sugata 月百姿)
 John Stevens Reference No.*
 Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
 Yoshitoshi 芳年
Kai 魁
 Date June 1891 (明治廿四年六月 日印刷 仝年仝月 日出版)
 Edition Likely from the album issued by publisher Akiyama Buemon shortly after Yoshitoshi's death
 Publisher  Akiyama Buemon (秋山武右エ門) [Marks: seal 26-132; pub. ref. 005]
 Carver Yoshihisa (義久刀)
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good; unbacked, visiblewoodgrain, slight margin trimming not effecting image or informationwritten in margin, four restored wormholes, minor soiling, small areaof lower right corner margin missing.
 Genre ukiyo-e
 Miscellaneous The Birth of the Moon, HozoTemple. In'ei holding a knobbed staff gazing at the Crescent Moon'sreflection. Yoshitoshi is suggesting that this priest was inspired toinvent the formidable crescent spear by the sight of the moon bisectinghis reflected staff.
 Format oban
 H x W Paper 13 3/4 x 9 7/8 in. (34.9 x 25.1 cm)
 H x W Image
 13 x 8 7/8 in. (33 x 22.5 cm)
 Collections This Print The British Museum1906,1220,0.1407; New York Public Library Humanities and SocialSciences Library / Spencer Collection; Yale University Art Gallery 2011.143.1.95; Hagi Uragami Museum (Yamaguchi,Japan) UO1592; Tokyo Metropolitan Library 加4722-85; The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-4534; Ritsumeikan University ARC NDL-541-00-082 and NDL-223-00-038
 Reference Literature * Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, John Stevenson, Hotei Publishing, Netherlands 2001, pl. 95.
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