A striking surimono print by Totoya Hokkei (1780 - 1850), with brass background
and various metals throughout. Portrayed are two 12th century heroes known for
their prowess in the martial arts. Their first encounter took place on Gojo
Bridge in Kyoto. The older and more experienced warrior priest, Benkei, was
bested in combat by the young Ushiwakamaru, later known as Minamoto no
Yoshitsune (1159 - 1189). In this print, their skill is tested in a game of Go,
and once again the younger Ushiwakamaru wins.|
In the accompanying poem, Ushiwakamaru is alluded to as a wakamusha, or young warrior. The clenched fist, or kobushi, in addition to emphasizing the frustration of the elder Benkei at being outplayed by his young friend, is also a term related to the practice of hunting with hawks. The final line of the poem directly links the image to the New Year. Dreaming of a hawk in the first dream of the New Year was considered to be auspicious.
make oshimi iu
kobushi o nigiru
taka no hatsuyume
Refusing to admit defeat
to the young warrior,
Benkei clenches his fist
just as a hawk appears
in a New Year's Dream.