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Episode from the story of the Soga brothers (soga monogatari), one of a pair, 1615-1868

Episode from the story of the Soga brothers

Episode from the story of the Soga brothers (soga monogatari), one of a pair, 1615-1868. Japan. Six panel folding screen; ink, colors and fold on paper. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D5.

This screen represents an episode from the story of two of the Soga brothers, which relates the circumstances of their father’s death and avengement. According to the story, in 1176 Goro and Juro Soga’ s father was involved in a land ownership dispute with Kudo Suketsune, a favorite vassal of the shogun, and was assassinated by him. Surviving many years of hardship in the wake of their father’s death, the brothers were determined to avenge him.

Hearing that Suketsune would be among the members of the shogun Yoritomo’s grand hunting excursion to Mount Fuji, Goro and Juro concealed themselves in the area and waited for the hunting party to arrive. In the episode shown here, the hunt is in progress. At the upper right, the shogun appears on horseback under a parasol. At the lower left, Juro’s horse is shown tumbling over a fallen tree; Juro is thrown to the ground, and the brothers’ attempt to assassinate Suketsune is for the moment foiled. At the middle of the fifth panel, Suketsune is seen riding a black horse, narrowly escaping Juro in his pursuit. A companion screen depicts the shogun’s camp, where the brothers successfully carried out their revenge. Juro was killed in the fight, and Goro was taken to the shogun’s court and later executed.

Written and rewritten over the centuries, the story of the Soga brothers’ successful endeavor and tragic end touched many people’s hearts. Episodes from the story have been the subject of numerous paintings.

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