Hokusai

The Waterfall Where Yoshitsune Washed His Horse at Yoshino in Yamato Province

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About the Art

The print shows a small waterfall in Yoshino where, according to legend, the warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159–1189) washed his horse during a military campaign, while hiding from his enemies. He was the brother of the founder of the Kamakura shogunate. 

There is no direct evidence for this event, although by the early 1800's legends of Yoshitsune rising to Yoshino had taken hold. Several Yoshino gazetteers contain related accounts, and one claimed that "there are still horses descended from the one ridden by Yoshitsune in the Ōdai mountains’.

Hokusai alludes to the legend, but instead of a representing a great warrior, two commoners attend to the duty of horse-washing. The valorization of everyday people and peasants was a recurring theme in Hokusai's work.

Edo Period travelers would have also washed their horses in this legendary location, perhaps looking to draw upon the mythical energy of the flowing waters.