The Imperial Envoy Leaves the Capital from the Righteous Samurai Collection, 1920

by Yamanaka Kodō

IHL Cat. #2592


The second print appearing in Volume 1 of Gishi taikan, edited by Fukumoto Nichinan.

As written in the commentary accompanying the print, "In February of the 14th year [1701] of the Genroku Era [1688-1704], the imperial envoys of Emperor Higashiyama, Lords Takano Yanagihara and Takano Yasuharu, and the imperial envoy of the [retired] Emperor Reigen, Lord Seikanji Hirosada, left Kyoto for Edo."

"It was a customary practice that each year the shogun would send an envoy to carry his New Year's greeting to the Kyoto court, and that imperial representatives would respond in turn by traveling to Edo. This year, the emissaries for Emperor Higashiyama (r. 1687-1709) and Retired Emperor Reigen (r. 1683-1687) arrived in Edo on the eleventh of the third month, presented their formal good wishes for the new year to the shogun in a ceremony on the twelfth, and were entertained with a noh performance on the thirteenth. In a final ceremony on the fourteenth, the shogun was scheduled to offer his thanks for the imperial greeting, an event known as the 'ceremony of response to the emperor'. Gifts were to be offered to the imperial envoys in thanks for their efforts by the shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi , by his consort, and by his mother, Keishōin. Asano Naganori was appointed to serve as host for the emperor's envoy, and Date Muneharu the daimyo of the domain of Yoshida (Iyo province), performed the same function for the representative of the retired emperor."[1]

For Asano Naganori to attack a shogunal official, Lord Kira, in the Chiyoda Castle during the ceremonies showed, in John A. Tucker's words, a "complete disregard for the extraordinary circumstances of time and place [making] his deed intolerable and subject to immediate judgement and punishment."[2]

[1] "The Akō Incident, 1701-1703," Bitō Masahide and Henry D. Smith II, appearing in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 58, No. 2 (Summer, 2003), Sophia University, p. 149-150,  Stable URL: [last accessed 2/15/2022]  Note: John A. Tucker in The Forty-Seven Ronin: The Vendetta in History, gives the date of the envoys' arrival as the fourteenth day of the third month, rather than the eleventh day given by Masahide and Smith.

[2] The Forty-Seven Rōnin: The Vendetta in History, John A. Tucker, Cambridge University Press, 2018, p. 1. 

Print Details

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artist signature and seal

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Print Commentary from Volume 1 of Gishi Taikan

image source: The Early Japanese Book Portal Database, Art Research Center AkoRH-R0419-1

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Tribute Preceding Print by

Yoshimitsu Yanagiwara 柳原義光 (1876-1946), politician and businessman, from Volume 1 of Gishi Taikan

image source: The Early Japanese Book Portal Database, Art Research Center AkoRH-R0419-1

Artist Profile

Yamanaka Kodō  山中古洞 (1869-1945)

Born in Tokyo to the Satō family, he was adopted by the Yamanaka family. He studied with the ukiyo-e artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年  (1839-1892), the Shijō school painter Kumagai Naohiko  熊谷直彦 (1829-1913) and Arihara (Ariwara) Kogan 在原古玩 (1829-1922), known for his revival of the Tosa style of painting. In 1901 he formed the Ugōkai (Cormorant Society) along with Kaburaki Kiyokata 鏑木清方 (1878-1972), Ikeda Terukata 池田輝方 (1883-1921) and others. He exhibited paintings with Ugōkai and Kokugakai (National Picture Association). He also illustrated weekly newspaper magazines and designed woodblock prints, kuchi-e and, most notably, bijinga in the 1920s and 1930s for the shin hanga publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō 渡辺庄三郎 (1885-1962). Additional artist names for Yamanaka were Tatsushige and Tatsujū. His name is sometimes seen romanized as "Yamanaka Kotō".

source: Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992 , p. 172 and other sources.