Yoshitoshi's 'Twenty-four Accomplishments in Imperial Japan (Kōkoku nijūshi-kō)' (1881-87)


This page attempts to catalog all known prints in Yoshitoshi's series 'Kōkoku nijūshikō ( 皇國 二十四 功 - Twenty-four Accomplishments in Imperial Japan)'. (The title is now usually written with the simplified character .) It consists of images of various people (mostly samurai, with some others) who played notable roles in Japanese history.

It dates from towards the end of Yoshitoshi's career, when he was about forty-two. It thus dates from slightly before before his well-known masterpieces such as his great series "One Hundred Aspects of the Moon" (1885-1892), and "New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts" (often called simply "Thirty-Six Ghosts") (1889-1892).

The texts on the prints are by Ryūtei Tanehiko II; it is not clear whether Tanehiko wrote text to go with Yoshitoshi's illustrations, or if Yoshitoshi produced images to go with Tanehiko's text. The early group (see below) are signed 'Tentendojin'; the later group are signed 'Ryūtei Tanehiko' or 'Ryūtei Tanehiko ki' (柳亭 種彦 記 - 'Written by Ryūtei Tanehiko'). His words are poetic and allusive, and underscore the mood of Yoshitoshi's image.

Technical details

Publishing commenced in 1881, and the first 16 prints were produced by the end of that year; a long hiatus then ensued, and the remaining 8 were only finally published 6 years later, in 1887. The reason for the delay is not known. When publication resumed, and the entire group was published as a set, some of the prints in the first group were re-issued with different colors .

The series was very popular while Yoshitoshi was alive, and it went through numerous printings. Several different states may be seen of these early printings (all with a red title cartouche); in some (perhaps the earliest, since it was the most work to produce) the text panel has several inclined bokashi stripes across it; in others (perhaps later), a simple band of bokashi at the top and bottom; and in others, no decoration at all.

The entire set was posthumously re-published between 1893 and 1895 by Matsuki Heikichi; paler colours were used, and some block changes were made. The easiest tell-tale for the second publishing is that the title cartouche is no longer red, but grey. The most significant change in most of the prints in that edition was the alteration of the signature: in all of them, the entire signature cartouche was removed, and replaced with a facsimile of the signature Yoshitoshi used toward the end of his life, along with a seal from that period.

Previous cataloguings

It is listed in Keyes' thesis:
	Roger. S. Keyes, "Courage and Silence: A Study of the Life and
		Color Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1839-1892",
		Cinncinnati, 1982
where it appears as series #438; he listed the 24 prints in the series. The next listing was in:
	Eric van den Ing, Robert Schaap, "Beauty and Violence: Japanese
		Prints by Yoshitoshi 1839-1892",
		Havilland, Eindhoven, 1992
where it appears as series #41 (pp. 126-127).

We use the Keyes/B+V numbers to order the prints below.

If you have either i) information about any errors on the page, ii) better images than the ones below, please let us know.

The Prints

To see a larger, roughly full-screen, image of any print, please click on the thumbnail; these images are sized to produce reasonable detail (if we have an original that big), and are fairly compressed.

If we have a higher-quality image, that image can be viewed by clicking on the "Large Image" link, which gives the size of the image (for the benefit of those on slow links). Sometimes there is more than one, as we add images of the second edition.

Thumbnail Large image Number Date Title (Kanji) Title (Rōmaji) Title (English) Description
824KB #1 1881/5 和気 清麻呂 公 Wake (no) Kiyomaro kō Lord Wake no Kiyomaro He is shown receiving oracles from the deity of the Usa Hachiman Shrine
#2 1881/5 贈正一位 菅原 道真 公 ?? Sugawara no Michizane kō Lord Sugawara no Michizane He is shown praying for a storm on Mt. Tempai
710KB #3 1881/5 楠 帯刀 正行 Kusunoki Tatewaki Masatsura He is shown rescuing Ben no Naishi
#4 1881/5 曽我 の 箱王丸 Soga no Hakoōmaru He is shown confronting his enemy Ruda at Hakone
255KB #5 1881/5 尾上 の 召仕 お初 Onoe no heyakata Ohatsu Onoe's chambermaid Ohatsu Ohatsu avenging her mistress Onoe
416KB #6 1881/5 傾城 宮城野 妹 しのぶ Keisei Miyagino imōto Shinobu The courtesan Miyagino and her younger sister Shinobu They are shown plotting to avenge their father's death.

The initial 'Shi' of the younger sister's name is written in hentai-gana in the caption; since hentai-gana are not (yet) available in Unicode, it cannot be shown properly in the caption transcription.

239KB #7 1881/5 田宮 坊太郎 宗親 Tamiya Bōtarō Munechika The spirit of the tengu is helping him avenge his father's death
511KB #8 1881/5 毛谷邨 の 農六助 Keya-mura no nō Rokusuke The farmer Rokusuke of Keya village Osono attacking Keyamura Rokusuke thinking he had killed her father
437KB #9 1881/9 加藤 主計 頭 清正 Katō Kazue-no-kami Kiyomasa Kato Kiyomasa at the fall of Fushimi Castle
679KB #10 1881/9 加藤 石動丸 Katō Ishidomaru He is shown visiting his father who had become a priest
879KB #11 1881/9 伊達 家 の 乳人 浅岡 Date-ka no chichinin Masaoka The wet nurse Masaoka of the Date clan Masaoka holding her murdered child.

The term for 'wet nurse', literally translated, is 'milk person'.

790KB #12 1881/12 常盤 御前 Tokiwa Gozen Tokiwa Gozen and her husband Minamoto no Yoshitomo
843KB #13 1881/12 大久保 彦左衛門 忠教 Ōkubo Hikozaemon Tadanori He is shown rescuing Tokugawa Ieyasu on the battlefield
434KB #14 1881/12 大石内 蔵之助 良雄 Ōishi Kura-no-suke Yoshio Ōishi Yoshio leading the night attack on Kira's mansion.

Current scholarship is that his alleged misdirection of spending time in the pleasure quarters was, in fact, just his normal lifestyle.

389KB #15 1881/12 吉備 大臣 Kibi Daijin Now usually known as Kibi no Makibi, he is shown here seated at a Chinese table
412KB #16 1881/12 佐藤 四郎兵衛 忠信 Satō Shirōbyōe Tadanobu Now usually known as Satō Tadanobu, he is shown here leaping from a snowy roof in Yoshino
420KB #17 1887/9 弼宰相春衝 Hitsu (no) Saishō Haruhira He is shown finding his father who had been cruelly imprisoned by the Chinese
479KB #18 1887/9 当麻 寺 の 中将 媛 Taima-dera no Chūjō-hime Princess Chūjō of the Taima Temple Chūjō-hime drawing thread from a lotus stalk to weave a mandala to appease the spirit of her wicked stepmother
#19 1887/9 日野 阿稚丸 Hino Kumawakamaru Now known by his adult name, Hino Kumawaka, he is shown being helped by a priest to escape from Sado Island after the death of his father.

His name is now written with totally different kanji, 熊若丸.

#20 1887/9 名和 小太郎 左衛門 長重 Nawa Kotarō Saemon Nagashige Nawa no Nagashige helping Emperor Godaigo escape from Oki Island to Hoki

This print has an entirely different background in the second edition.

410KB #21 1887/9 袈裟 御前 Kesa Gozen She is shown writing her last words before dying in place of her husband
716KB #22 1887/9 羽柴 筑前 守 秀吉 Hashiba Chikuzen no Kami Hideyoshi Better known to us now as Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he is shown here cutting the skin of a melon
#23 1887/9 鳥居強右衛門勝高 Torii Suneemon Katsutaka Now known as Torii Suneemon, he is shown here seeking help from Tokugawa Ieyasu against Takeda Katsuyori
512KB #24 1887/9 信濃 国 の 孝子 善之丞 Shinano (no) kuni no kōshi Zen-no-jō Zen-no-jo, a filial child from Shinano province In a mirror, he is shown by Enma the demon king of the underword) his father's crimes in a former life


Thanks to (in alphabetical order) the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which was the source of a number of these images.

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© Copyright 2010-2013 by J. Noel Chiappa and Jason M. Levine

Last updated: 30/August/2013