Kuwana: Juzo and the Sea Monster by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Japanese, 1798 - 1861
Edo Period (1615 - 1867), 1843 - 1847
Color woodcuts Museum purchase, gift of friends of the museum

The Tokaido Road was an important and well-trodden route in pre-modern Japan connecting the political capital of Edo with the imperial city of Kyoto. The road was periodically punctuated by designated stations where travelers could rest and refresh themselves. Art and literature featuring the Tokaido Road were immensely popular in Japan. The woodblock print seen here is from a Tokaido Road series in which artists represented the road through historical and legendary stories associated with the numerous stations. The monster in the print is an umi-bōzu, phantom sea-priest, a dark monster that has the power to conjure up strong winds and capsize ships. According to tradition, if one encounters an umi-bōzu and does not say a word, the monster will vanish and restore the waters to calm seas.