Ogata Gekko gekko portrait Yamato Monogatari

The Yamato Monogatari (Tales of Old Japan) series is quite a mystery in many ways. It is not well known to many collectors, it is not clear how many prints are in the series and exactly which tales are being illustrated can be difficult to discern. The images themselves are very restrained and quite beautiful. The series was published in about 1896.

Where I think the story illustrated has been determined I give details, in the other cases I have applied a non commital name. The Yamato Monogatari itself is a collection of 173 tales and poems from the Heian period, the author of the collection is unknown, it is thought to have been completed in 951 or 952


1.Ashikari (Cutting Reeds) is a well known play based on an older story of love and loss.The version in the Yamato monogatari is the earliest known version and unlike the Noh play it has a happy ending rather than a tragic one.



2.Yoshiwara no Tadabumi (藤原忠文 - 873-947), one of the great military leaders in the Heian Period





Peasant woman

4.Peasant woman and visitor


by the river

5.Probably illustrating the Tale of Sarusawa pond, where a young lady in waiting is in love with the Emperor Uda and drowns herself in the pond as her love cannot be returned. The Emperor asked the famous poet Kakinomoto no Hitomaro to compose a poem in her memory



6.The screen





man carrying an old woman

8.Obatsuteyama. A reference to a Noh play based on the story of the abandoned aunt, the title could be translated as "The Place where Old Women are Abandoned". Yoshitoshi created a print on the same theme in his 100 Aspects of the Moon series.


picnic under wisteria

9.Court Ladies' Picnic under the Flowers of Wisteria. This image is from the Hansei Zasshi (an English language Japanese magazine) Volume 13, Number 5, May 29. 1898, note the lack of catouches, seal and signature. It was also issued as a stand alone print with seals and cartouche as seen in the print below


picnic standard

10.Court Ladies' Picnic under the Flowers of Wisteria, standard edition