Itsuo (Hokyudo Itsumin, active 1830-1867)
Edo, circa 1860
A barefoot courtier gazes up with an indulgent smile at the plump Okame who he is carrying on his back. The long fingers of his hands are laced together to support her rounded body, the flowing fabric of her kimono hem falling in ripples to form a natural himotoshi. The Shinto goddess of mirth clasps his shoulders tightly and her cheeks dimple as she enjoys her temporary form of transport. Her robes are lightly patterned with a diaper design.
This mitate scene alludes to the tale of Omori Hikoshichi offering to transport a beautiful girl across a river, only for her to transform into a Hannya demon mid-stream, who then tries to kill him. Here the depiction alludes to the Heian court poet, Ariwara no Narihira eloping with the lady Nijo, the subject of a woodblock print by Kuniyoshi from the series Mitate Nijoshi ko (Twenty-four selected paragons of filial piety, 1853-54).
An image of Kuniyoshi’s print can be found at www.kuniyoshiproject.com. A later print of this subject was made by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892).