The Imperial Visit to Ōhara


The Imperial Visit to Ōhara

Paintings / Azuchi/Momoyama

By Hasegawa Kyūzō (1568–93)

Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century

Color and gold leaf on paper



A number of people and horses can be glimpsed between golden clouds. Cherry blossoms and wisteria bloom, while mountains rear up in the distance. This is Ohara, a town located in modern-day Kyoto. The painting depicts the closing scenes of The Tale of the Heike, a war tale from the Kamakura period around the 13th and 14th centuries. It shows Emperor Goshirakawa paying a secret visit to Kenrei Mon'in, a former empress who renounced the world and retreated into seclusion. We see the emperor visiting the hermitage on the fourth panel from the right. Further up on the right, toward the center of the screen, two women walk on a mountain path back to the hermitage. One of these is probably the empresses. This composition hints at the drama that will ensue at the reunion.

The screen was painted by Hasegawa Kyuzo, the son of the renowned painter Hasegawa Tohaku. Great things were expected of Kyuzo, but he actually died at just 26 years of age. This valuable work is one of only three confirmed paintings by Kyuzo. His talent is on full display in the accurate proportions of the human figures, the meticulous details, and the superb sense of color. The delicate portrayal of the plants and flowers and the rounded depictions of mountains and rocks exude a gentle elegance suitable for such a tragic, ephemeral story.

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