Sōtatsu: Making Waves

Musashino, Tales of Ise, episode 12

Musashino, Tales of Ise, episode 12In the dramatic tale depicted here, a kidnapper is pursued by provincial officials. Unaware that the female victim has been abandoned in the Musashino Plain, the pursuers threaten to set fire to the fields, until they hear her reciting a poem asking them to spare her abductor or, in a variant reading, to spare the Musashino Plain. As the pursuers rescue the woman, they also discover the man. The painting, however, here and in most other versions, contradicts the text by showing the couple together in the fields while the officials with torches stand in quandary below. For generations unfamiliar with the textual details, the scene came to epitomize the plight of star-crossed lovers. This poetry sheet was part of the set owned by businessman Masuda Takashi (1848–1938).

Musashino, Tales of Ise, episode 12
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, early to mid-17th century
Poetry sheet mounted as hanging scroll
Ink, colors, and gold on paper
Idemitsu Museum of Art, Tokyo

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