Benkei was a legendary Japanese warrior monk and yamabushi (or ascetic warrior of the mountains) who was undefeated until he met the skilled Yoshitsune. He was impressed by his sword skills and became his lieutenant to stay by his side for the rest of their days.
He is shown in this art canvas seated with a naginata (halberd) in full samurai armour with a tachi (sword) at his waist. The figure behind him is named as Genkurou Yoshitsune which may refer to Yoshitsune’s Minamoto clan heritage or it may refer to the famous kitsune, or fox spirit, which was legendarily named Genkurou and fully armed as a reward for his services to the famous general as portrayed in the kabuki play “Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees”. He carries daisho (long and short swords) in his belt and a quiver of arrows at his back.
This picture embodies the virtues of loyalty, friendship and martial excellence, not to mention the spirit of brothers-in-arms.
Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni
Date: 1804 to 1818
Original Type: Ukiyo-e woodcut
Canvas: 8×12 to 30×40 inch sizing, wrapped canvas